Additional Quotes: USA 122, Japan 38
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
USA Head Coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa)
On today’s game:
The nice thing is that players really prepare the right way for team. Whether it’s Japan or Serbia or whomever. We’re going to prepare the right way for any team we play.
How do you keep the team focused on getting better when the score is so lopsided?
These guys did a great job of staying focused today. The thing we focused on is doing things the right way. We’re still working on getting them to do things the right way. When you respect your opponent, you still play hard. The worst thing you can do is disrespect your opponent, not play hard and make a mockery of the game. So, our kids really focused in on that and that’s what we wanted to do.
What precipitated inserting Terrance Ferguson into the line-up in place of Jayson Tatum?
There are a number of reasons. Terrance has really been playing well, defensively and offensively. We wanted to get him in the line-up. And Jayson came off the bench for us last year with our U16 team and we really thought he scored better off the bench and played a little better off the bench. Today we thought we’d give that a try and I think it helped Jayson out a lot and it helped Terrance out a lot. The line-up change was a good one for us. Both of them benefitted from their spots. So, sometimes that works and today it fortunately did.
Were you pleased with the limited (six) turnovers in the first half?
There are so many possessions in a game like this. We’re scoring so much that sometimes the turnovers get a little crazy. But the first half was really, really good. Our team was very focused that first half. I’m not sure we’ve ever had a mind-set to start the game as we did today. That was a great mind-set.
The team will play the winner of the Italy-China contest in the quarterfinals. What do you know about those two teams?
Obviously when you get to this level and now we’re in the final eight. Italy’s had pretty good pool play game. They beat Spain and they’ve had some nice games in their pool. They’re going to be a tough game, as well as China. China’s one of those teams, basketball is huge in their country, so there are a lot of kids playing, they’re better athletes than they were two and four years ago, so either team is going to be tough. For us, we’re going to have to come out with the proper mind-set if we want to get to the next round.
Henry Ellenson (Rice Lake H.S./Rice Lake, Wis.)
On today’s game:
I thought we did a really good job today. We dominated the game from the get-go. It was a big thing for us because of yesterday to get a good start. We kind of had a lackadaisical start yesterday. We were still up, but that was a big key for us today, to get a big jump on them from the start of the game today.
The teams are going to continue to be tougher over the next three games. Coach Showalter stressed that you have to put this game behind you and focus on the remaining games. What are your thoughts on that?
He doesn’t want us to get too full of ourselves. He wants us to stay focused on what the main goal is, which is winning the gold. It’s not winning against Japan by 100. So, we need to focus on getting the gold and keep working hard.
How fun is it to play with this group of guys?
It’s a lot of fun. We get up and down, we have a good time getting those dunks, it’s always fun. It’s a good group. I really enjoy it.
What else do you need to work on as a team?
We showed great defense today. We need to keep improving on defense every day. And eliminating turnovers, taking care of the ball, is going to be a big thing. After that, everything else should take care of itself.
Malik Newman (Callaway H.S./Jackson, Miss.)
On the quick start:
That was something we were really focusing on, the first group starting off with a lot of energy and then letting the bench continue to do what they do, keep that energy up.
How do you stay focused in a game like that?
Just knowing that that’s not the gold medal game. We know we still have things to work on. We really just went out there and worked on things that we needed to work on, different defenses and different sets that we need to execute better.
Who stood out today?
Jayson. Jayson Tatum. For him to lose his starting role, but to come off the bench and bring energy like he did and still play his same game, that speaks high volumes for him.
What are you still working on, aside from your defenses and sets?
Really just everything. We’re a gold medal team right now, but we’re not playing to our full potential. I think we have to tighten everything up, communicate better, play harder, rebound better, cut down on the turnovers, have more assists and things like that.
On the Japanese team:
I really credit Japan for not giving up. They played hard each play down the court. They’re small, but they’re tough. They have a lot of heart. Tor those guys to come out and compete like they did really speaks a lot about them.
Diamond Stone (Dominican H.S./Milwaukee, Wis.)
On the team’s opening run:
I think we listened to coach’s message. As a team, we’re worrying about the team. It’s about the ‘we’ not the ‘me.’
How much has this team improved?
Our trust and our chemistry has been getting tighter and tighter every game. Back in our first practice we were off, we were all about our own egos, but now we’re starting to follow and listed to coach’s message. We are playing more and more like a team.
How important is it that you have a bench that comes in and allows no let-up?
Our bench is the main part of our team. The starters get tired and the bench has the same intensity as the starters, maybe even more. So, I think that the bench is the main reason why we blow teams out.
Was there anything you were trying to work on as the game went on?
Our press, our 21, 22 and 23, and different zones. That’s some of the things we were trying to work on.
Jayson Tatum (Chaminade College Prep/St. Louis, Mo.)
The team looks like it’s really coming together. Do you feel the chemistry growing?
Yeah, I do. The more we move the ball, the more people can get open shots and easy dunks and things like that. We’re having more fun, we like playing with each other more like that.
On the USA’s quick start:
Yeah, we came out and played really well as a team on offense and especially on the defense. I think we scored like 20-something (22) points before they scored their first point. We just had a lot of fun playing together out there.
On the USA’s bench:
It’s very important, because after you sub in the intensity has to keep up, it can’t drop off if we want to win the gold medal. We have to take it one game at a time and play together.