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Berkmar star still Patriotic

Wesley Witherspoon has proven himself to be one of the best basketball players under the age of 18 in Georgia throughout his career at Berkmar.

Now, the former Patriot star and University of Memphis signee wants to prove he's one of the best under-18 players in the nation.

The 6-foot-8 wing will get his chance as one of 25 invitees to attend the 2008 USA Basketball Men's U18 National Team Trials, which get under way today and run through Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Witherspoon is one of an elite group of players in his age group selected to attend the camp - out of which only 12 will be selected to represent the United States in the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men from July 14-18 in Formosa, Argentina - by a committee headed by Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

"It's going to be a fun experience, and I can't wait to embrace it," Witherspoon said. "Looking at some of the players who have made it before, it's exciting to have a chance to be one of them."

The list of former U18 National Team members is a who's who of some of the country's basketball elite, including Georgia native Shareef Abdur-Rahim, plus others who went on to star in college and the NBA, like Carmelo Anthony, Michael Beasley, Chris Bosh, Stephon Marbury and Deron Williams.

The competition this year will be just as fierce, with Witherspoon one of three metro Atlantans - joining rising high school seniors Kenny Hall of Redan (who recently verbally committed to Tennessee) and Ari Stewart of Wheeler - among the invitees.

Also vying for one of the national team spots are several players who, like Witherspoon, recently graduated high school and are about to play with big-time college programs. That list includes stars like McDonald's All-Americans JaMychal Green (Alabama), Sylven Landesberg (Virginia), Kemba Walker (Connecticut) and Malcolm Lee (UCLA), plus other college signees Drew Gordon (UCLA), Matt Humphrey (Oregon) and brothers David Wear and Travis Wear (both North Carolina).

However, Witherspoon has his own impressive credentials after being a first-team selection for both the Daily Post All-County and Georgia Sports Writers Association's All-State teams.

He also finished in the top 10 in Gwinnett in scoring (seventh, 18.6 ppg), rebounding (fifth, 9.8 rpg) and assists (eighth, 4.5 apg) and led Berkmar (23-6) to its first Region 8-AAAAA title in seven years, plus a berth in the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals.

So, Witherspoon figures he has as good a chance as anyone of making the final cut if he plays up to his potential.

"You always have to be concerned about the competition," Witherspoon said. "But if I do what I have to do, I don't have anything to worry about."

SideBar: BASKETBALL

What: USA Men's U18 National Team Trials

When: Today-Thursday

Where: Washington, D.C.

Local interest: Former Berkmar forward and Memphis signee Wesley Witherspoon is one of 25 invitees vying for 12 spots on the 2008 Men's U18 National Team, which will compete in the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men from July 14-18 in Formosa, Argentina. Final selections will be made Thursday, followed by a one-week training camp prior to the tournament in South America.