Trying out for a spot on USA Basketball’s 19-and-under World Cup team last month in Fort Worth, Caleb Furst just did what he’s always done: He tried hard.
“I didn’t try to do anything special or anything like that,” the Purdue freshman said. “I tried to rebound the best I could, run the floor the best I could, find the open man, make open shots.
“Little things like that.”
And the quiet productivity that came from that effort — as it always has for Furst — did the trick.
Even though Team USA coach Jamie Dixon and the USA Basketball braintrust already had a pair of post players set in stone with Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner and Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Lofton, they couldn’t let Furst walk.
“It was just his ability to rebound,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter, who doubles as USA Basketball’s junior national team committee chair but does not pick the teams. “He led the trials in offensive and defensive rebounding and he took the most free throws. He was active, had a lot of energy and was just around the basketball.”
Painter’s had numerous players over the years participate in international competition during the summer, most recently Carsen Edwards and Trevion Williams on this very 19U team.
He’s seen the confidence bump they can get from playing with high-level teammates and against high-level competition, confidence generally being a very important element for young players at this stage of their careers. Furst was one of numerous incoming freshmen on the 19U team.
But for Furst there’s another layer of value, most likely, from the trip to Latvia.
With other centers on the roster, Furst logged considerable minutes playing forward, alongside another big man.
That’s not something he’s done much in his playing career to date, but will do at Purdue.
Painter recruited Furst to play both forward and center during his career, and this season especially, the clearest path to minutes comes at the 4, as Trevion Williams and Zach Edey leave the Boilermakers spoiled rotten once again at center.
Furst often played alongside Kalkbrenner or Lofton in Latvia, as he will Williams or Edey in West Lafayette.
“It’s something I’ve been working on,” Furst said. “To be able to do that, it felt good. I’ll continue working on it.”