WASHINGTON, D.C. — Of all the players on the U.S. U19 roster, Mike Tobey may be the least well known.
He’s not a big-name high school star like Jahlil Okafor. He didn’t forego the NBA Draft to return to campus like Marcus Smart and Jarnell Stokes. And he doesn’t compete for a team coming off a Final Four like Jerami Grant or Montrezl Harrell.
The 6-foot-11 Tobey is a rising sophomore at Virginia who hopes to contribute in the frontcourt at the U19 World Championship June 27-July 7 in Prague.
A native of Monroe, N.Y., and a graduate of Blair (N.J.) Academy, Tobey has been battling in practices against guys like Okafor and Stokes and that will help him at the tournament and next season, too.
“He’s doing it every day in practice, going against Stokes and Okafor,” Virginia head coach and U19 assistant Tony Bennett told SNY.tv after practice Thursday.
“Just to go against this level of competition from a practice standpoint, be exposed to the intensity and all that, is great for Mike.”
Tobey averaged 6.8 points and 2.9 rebounds as a freshman but suffered through mononucleosis and missed five games in the middle of the season.
“The mono was definitely a big setback for me,” he said. “I was just starting to play well. Things happen. I think I recovered pretty well. I wasn’t full strength at the end of the season, but I’m just going to go into next season with the momentum of last season.”
Tobey said he now weighs 245 pounds after playing at 227 when he arrived at Virginia.
That has helped him bang with Stokes and Okafor down low.
“For next year and also for here, I’d like to show that I have gotten stronger,” he said.
Looking ahead to his college team, Virginia has added freshmen guards Devon Hall and London Perrantes. They also return their top three returning scorers in Joe Harris, Akil Mitchell and Justin Anderson. (Harris was expected to be on the U.S. World University Games roster, but pulled out with a stress reaction in his foot.”
“Next year, Virginia we’re definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with,” he said.
A natural center, Tobey expects to play some power forward on the U19 team.
“If Mike’s called upon, his length and his size and skill will help us,” Bennett said. “He knows how to play position and defense and help on the ball screens. We’re playing so hard guys get tired, so it’s good to have depth.”
Tobey and Bennett have also gotten to bond during their time together in Colorado Springs, Colo., and in Washington, even if the coach rides the player harder than the others
“He’s always gonna do that, he looks out for me so I appreciate that,” Tobey said. “I don’t take any of it as bad, it’s all positive.”
When Tobey arrives in Prague, he will also get a chance to return to the homeland of his ancestors.
“I’m going to be the first Tobey in a while to go back,” he told USA Basketball.
And when he comes back, he hopes to have a gold medal with him.
Big name or not.
**For more coverage of the USA U19 and U16 teams, click here.