KSL OLYMPICS

Winding Road Finally Leads Lillard To Team USA Olympic Roster

Jun 28, 2021, 12:42 PM | Updated: 12:43 pm
Portland Trail Blazers Guard Damian Lillard will represent Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics (Photo by...
Portland Trail Blazers Guard Damian Lillard will represent Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In a career full of twists and turns, former Weber State guard Damian Lillard is finally preparing to headline the Team USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team in Tokyo.

On a roster of mostly inexperienced international players, Lillard, nearly 31 years old, is being leaned upon for his lengthy successful NBA and collegiate career.

But, Lillard’s trajectory to the top of the mountain of players to emerge from the state of Utah has been anything but a straight line, including on the Olympic stage.

Though Lillard has spent his entire NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers (a run that may soon be coming to an end) the superstar point guard was no stranger to changing teams as he climbed through the basketball ranks.

Before enrolling in college, Lillard played for three different prep teams, ultimately finishing his career as a junior and senior at Oakland High School. Despite impressive averages to finish his prep career, the undersized guard was ranked as just a two-star prospect upon leaving high school.

Lillard accepted a scholarship offer to Weber State where he quickly established himself as one of the premier mid-major stars in all of college basketball.

After being named Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year, Lillard would lead Weber State to the Big Sky Championship game twice during his four-year career with the Wildcats, while earning Big Sky Player of the Year honors in 2010 and 2012.

The guard declared for the NBA draft after his redshirt junior season, leaving Weber State with career averages of 18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Though questions surrounded the guard as a 22-year-old star from a smaller basketball conference, Lillard quickly proved his doubters wrong in Portland.

The sixth overall pick averaged 19.0 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.1 rebounds during his inaugural NBA season, earning Rookie of the Year honors. Over the first nine years of his career, Lillard has been named to six All-Star teams, six All-NBA teams, and carried the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference Finals in 2019.

Despite his illustrious NBA career, one honor has eluded the Weber State product during his basketball career — representing Team USA on the highest international stage.

Lillard was one of the final cuts from the 2014 FIBA USA team, left off the roster in favor of frontcourt players Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond.

In 2016, the guard bypassed the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as he rehabilitated a foot injury that had plagued him throughout the 2015-16 NBA season. In 2019, Lillard again withdrew from the Men’s National Team ahead of the FIBA World Cup in China.

Though he’s never represented the country on an international roster of this magnitude, Lillard will be a key cog on the Team USA roster. With only Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Kevin Love having previously played for the US Olympic team, coach Gregg Popovich will look to Lillard to act as a steadying presence, as well as a scoring force against the more experienced international rosters.

Lillard will lead the team’s first exhibition game against Nigeria on July 10 and will make his official Olympic debut against Rudy Gobert and the French National Team on July 25.

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