The 2011 Pan-Am Games didn't go exactly as planned on Friday night as Team USA dropped a winnable game to Uruguay, but it didn't matter as the team made up of NBA Development League players have made it to the medal round regardless. The American team will play Mexico at 2 p.m. ET to determine one half of Sunday's gold medal game in Guadalajara.
Team USA will more than likely once again play with a starting lineup that includes Jerome Dyson and Donald Sloan in the backcourt, Renaldo Major and Leo Lyons on the wings and Greg Stiemsma manning the middle. It shouldn't surprise anyone if the bench plays a big role, though, as D-League veterans Blake Ahearn, Marcus Lewis, Lance Thomas and Justin Dentmon all played important roles in the team's two victories earlier in the tournament.
Mexico's only loss in the tournament came at the hands of the Puerto Rico's National Team -- featuring Jose Juan Barea and Renaldo Balkman -- so they definitely won't be an easy team to get by if the USA is able to move on toward the gold medal. The team's best players, or at least the names most recognizable to American fans, are Lorenzo Mata-Real, Orlando Mendez-Valdez, Jovan Harris, Adam Parada and Christopher Hernandez.
Mata-Real was a four-year rotation player during his time as a UCLA Bruin and has had NBA Summer League looks with both the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls. He's played in the Mexican domestic leagues for the past four seasons. Real ranks in the top-three at the Pan-American games with averages of 11 rebounds and three blocked shots through the first three games.
Mendez-Valdez isn't a world-beater by any means, but his play at Western Kentucky earned him some SportsCenter highlights at the NCAA Tournament. He scored 20 points in Mexico's loss to Puerto Rico.
Harris doesn't have the name recognition that even Mata-Real does, but readers of Ridiculous Upside should remember him as he's played for both the Bakersfield Jam and Iowa Energy in the past. Harris scored 22 points and hit 4-of-6 from beyond the arc in the team's most recent game.
Parada is another name just on the edge of relevancy, but the 7-footer from Cal-Irvine has had NBA looks with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Lakers in the past. He has yet to do much in the Pan-Am games.
Last, but not least, Hernandez had the most prolific NCAA career of any of the Mexican National Team members. The point guard averaged 15.2 points and four assists while shooting 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc at Stanford his junior season before eventually being invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and getting a Summer League invite with the New Orleans Hornets.
This won't be an easy game for the USA, but at least it seems that a gold medal is within reach for Nate Tibbetts' team.