SALT LAKE CITY — Beginning in the wee hours of the morning local time on Saturday, five pro basketball players with local connections will represent their native countries on the world stage.
The FIBA World Cup, which takes place once every four summers, will be played from Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in China, and three Utah Jazz players, along with a former Utah Runnin’ Ute and a former BYU Cougar, will be playing.
From the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell will represent the United States, Rudy Gobert will play for France and Joe Ingles will be on Australia’s squad at the 32-nation event (Dante Exum will not play for Australia as he continues to rehab from an injury sustained with Utah last season).
Former Runnin’ Ute Andrew Bogut will also represent Australia, and Logan High School graduate and former Cougar Charles Abouo will represent Ivory Coast.
- United States’ Joe Harris, left, drives to the basket past Australia’s Joe Ingles during their exhibition basketball game in Melbourne, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019. Andy Brownbill, AP
- Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, left, high fives Donovan Mitchell after having a foul called on him against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Silas Walker, Deseret News
- United States’ Mason Plumlee, center, battles for the ball against Australia’s Andrew Bogut, left, during their exhibition basketball game in Melbourne, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Andy Brownbill, AP
- Brigham Young guard Charles Abouo shoots during practice, Monday, March 12, 2012, in Dayton, Ohio. Al Behrman, AP
Ricky Rubio and Ekpe Udoh, who played for the Jazz the last two seasons, will represent Spain and Nigeria, respectively.
The 32 teams are split into eight groups of four teams, and thus each nation is guaranteed to play three games, one every other day, before second-round action begins on Sept. 7. Abouo and Ivory Coast will open on Aug. 31 against host nation China, while all the other players with local ties will begin on Sept. 1.
The United States is the favorite, although it might not breeze through the competition like it often does. Throughout the summer, many of the best American players in the NBA declined the invitation to participate, which left just 13 players as the team held a training camp in Australia last week.
Rosters are limited to 12 players, but former University of Utah star Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers suffered an ankle injury and withdrew before a final cut had to be made.
Lack of participation did open the door for Mitchell, who was originally thought to be a long shot to make the roster at all, but became one of the team’s primary leaders throughout the camp in Australia.
Team USA will open play against the Czech Republic.
Ingles and Bogut will play for an Australian team that was already on the rise, and then it beat Team USA 98-94 in an exhibition game last week. The “Boomers” will open against Canada.
Gobert is one of five NBA players on France’s squad, which will begin group play versus Germany. The 2015 event was a major coming-out party for the big man, as he dominated after not playing a whole lot his first two seasons with the Jazz.
Every game of this year’s event, which will feature 44 NBA players besides the 12 on Team USA, can be streamed on ESPN Plus.
NBA training camps will begin a little more than two weeks after the final on Sept. 15.