Former Creighton big man Geoffrey Groselle was ready to interrupt his agent about 10 words into the phone call.
USA Basketball was planning to fill its Pan American Games roster with players who had Big East ties. They’d train together for a week and then travel to Peru to play against professionals from other countries in a renowned multisport event. And they needed a center.
Was Groselle interested?
“(My agent) was asking me as if I would say no,” Groselle said. “I’m like, ‘Of course. I’d love to.’ This is an amazing opportunity.”
And now Groselle is in Lima, Peru. And he’ll compete in the Pan American Games, an Olympics-like event that features athletes from the Americas every four years. The United States earned a bronze medal in men’s basketball back in 2015 — it hasn’t won gold since 1983.
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This year’s squad is a bit different. Groselle and 11 other players have formed a Big East all-star team — with Providence’s Ed Cooley serving as coach. Most of the roster is composed of current collegiate guys, including Creighton’s Ty-Shon Alexander, Seton Hall’s Myles Powell and Providence’s Alpha Diallo.
They’ll begin action on Wednesday in a pool-play opening-round matchup against the U.S. Virgin Islands. They’ll have games against Venezuela on Thursday and Puerto Rico on Friday. If they advance, they’ll play in the knockout round this weekend.
The goal, obviously, is to win. But Groselle said there will be something special about just taking the court, on foreign soil, as a representative of his country.
“I get to play with that ‘Team USA’ on my jersey,” Groselle said. “To have that experience — that’s enough in itself. It’s an honor.”
He intends to cherish the week just like he’s relished the other memorable moments that this game has presented him.
Groselle said Peru will be the 20th country he’s visited. He played two seasons in Germany and spent last year in a Russian league — he played for BC Astana in Kazakhstan.
“I get paid to put a ball in a hoop and have people watch me do it. That’s kind of a crazy thought,” Groselle said. “I love going to work every day.”
He doesn’t plan on slowing down, either. Groselle has yet to sign with a team for this winter, but the 7-foot, 242-pound center hopes that this Pan-Am tour will catch the attention of scouts across the globe.
Undoubtedly, Groselle has a chance to make a substantial impact for the U.S. squad.
He can finish in a variety of ways around the rim. His stop-you-in-your-tracks screen-setting ability is almost legendary around Creighton’s practice gym. He’s the most experienced player on the roster. He’s one of team’s three centers (Butler graduate Tyler Wideman and Providence junior Nate Watson are the others).
Groselle earned the start in the team’s lone exhibition game last week. He scored six points.
However things unfold, though, he’s sure to have a good time. He knew that would be the case the instant he heard about this trip.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” he said.