The U.S. Jr Men are in Germany and getting ready to take on the world at the 2023 IHF Men’s Jr Handball World Championships. They will be playing in Magdeburg in Group A where they will face Poland, France and Croatia in Preliminary Group Play. Their first match is tomorrow (Tuesday) and they will take on Poland at 1:15 PM local / 7:15 AM US ET. Matches are to be streamed on the IHF YouTube channel.
The team had a productive training camp in Hungary where they played 3 exhibition matches, losing to Veszprem’s U20 team (39-30), Kuwait (29-26) and Libya (32-26). While all 3 matches were losses the team played very well at times as the team gets familiar with new players and prepares for the matches that count.
Here’s a closer look at the U.S. Final Roster grouped in to different categories:
By nation (where these Americans first played handball)
First a note: These athletes are all Americans. As someone who lived in France for five years, I’ll restate what I’ve said many times before: Just because someone grows up in another country doesn’t make them less of an American. In fact, I’ve argued that in some respects it makes a person “more American” in that they’ve likely had to think more about what it means to be an American. (If one wants to read more on this topic check out these links: Link Link Link Link)
That said, I continue to be surprised by the quality and quantity of overseas American athletes that the USA Men have been able to draw upon in recent years. 14 athletes first learned to play handball in another country. And, 9 different countries to boot. Without these athletes the U.S. would struggle to be competitive and in all likelihood would never have qualified. Four athletes are U.S. based and first learned the game in college. Three from perennial top college power, West Point and one from runners up, North Carolina.
Athletes by Age
By definition a U21 team is young team, but this roster takes it a step further with 7 athletes that are eligible for double duty this summer on the U19 team that will take part in the Youth World Championships in August.
Athletes by Position
Here’s a few notes on each position:
Goalkeepers: Mattia Cercola was the All Star goalkeeper at the NORCA Youth Championships and Hashim Mahmoud was on the NORCA Jr team squad. Grayson Wide is new to the team
Left Wing: Evan Gordon was on the U.S. NORCA Jr Team and Oliver Edwards is new to the team and plays for a prominent Hungarian side, MOL Tatabanya
Left Back: Maksim McCauley is just 18 years old, but he’s already seen action with the U.S. Sr team and he was an all star at the NORCA Youth Championships. Neopomuk Grabner was also on the U.S. team at the NORCA youth Championships and was an alternate on the U.S. Sr Team for the 2023 World Championships. Markus Ole Strommen is new to the team
Center Back: Elliot Robertson was named the MVP of the NORCA Jr Championships. Matisse Walker and Benjamin Edwards are new to the team.
Right Back: Mark Miller was on the NORCA Jr Team and is a Junior at West Point. Tristan Morawski was the All Star Right back at the NORCA Youth Championships
Right Wing: Both Gary Phillips and Loic Karrer were on the NORCA Jr Team. Phillips was a recruited QB at West Point and has been playing handball for less than a year. I would also assess him to be the best stateside handball prospect since Gary Hines.
Circle Runner: Both Samuel Proctor (West Point) and Connor Reed (North Carolina) were on the NORCA Jr Team. Daniel Hunyadi is new to the team and reportedly has been a big contributor for the team in preparatory matches.
The U.S. was dealt a very challenging preliminary group and it’s unlikely they will avoid finishing 4th. That said, this appears to be a side with potential that will likely improve as the tournament progresses and should pick up some wins in the President’s Cup.