Additional Quotes >> USA U17 Men 89, Serbia 68 (semifinals)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
USA Head Coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa)
What do you say to someone who just saw the score and thought it was an easy win?
You weren’t at the game (laughs). It was a grind-out game and we knew it was going to be. We had hoped we prepared our players enough that they knew it was going to be a grind it out game for us. Sometimes you get into a game where you just have to take every possession and get a good shot and hopefully you get something out of it.
On the game overall:
We knew coming in it was going to be a tough test. We told our kids that Serbia has had a history of really giving the United States trouble in games. You go back and the mid-2000’s and games like this Serbia has won. I know their coach and team has been preparing to play us for the past couple of years. So, we prepared our kids. Our kids really were prepared mentally, physically for a really knock-out, tough game.
What did Serbia do to give you problems?
They switched defenses a lot. I thought they were more physical than the other teams. They bumped us a little bit on our cuts and didn’t allow us to get to areas. They really packed in on our bigs. So, we had to do a few different things to get some stuff off of our bigs. We showed great leadership tonight, especially from Malik Newman, Devearl Ramsey, Tyus Battle, those guys showed great leadership in getting the ball where it needed to be.
On Caleb Swanigan & Tyus Battle:
Caleb is one of those guys who doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does. But, he just comes in and is a workhorse. He did a fantastic job tonight. He had 11 points, eight rebounds, diving on the floor after loose basketballs, taking a charge. He’s a high-energy guy. You have to love guys like that who play.
I thought Tyus Battle was Usain Bolt for us tonight. And those guys, if they don’t play they’re not sitting on the bench pouting. They’re great teammates and when they have the chance, they make the most of it.
More on Tyus Battle:
I can’t say enough about guys like Tyus. He only played nine minutes tonight, but I’ll tell you what, in those nine minutes, he brought everything he had. He’s the type of kid who is going to get a lot from this experience. He wasn’t with us last summer with the U16s, but he understands what it means to play for USA Basketball and he is a great teammate. He doesn’t sit on the bench and pout, he supports his teammates and then when his name is called, he comes in and does a great job. That’s what we expect out of all our kids. That’s kind of how we chose the team. We chose it a little from the standpoint of who will give us good minutes off the bench? Who is going to be a great teammate? And Tyus certainly embellishes that.
Your players show a lot of passion on the court. Is that something you like?
Well, if they don’t have passion on the court, they won’t be playing. That comes directly from our coaching staff. Our coaching staff has a lot of passion for what’s going on. If they don’t have passion on the court, we have seven other guys who can go in for them.
Tyus Battle (Gill St. Bernard’s School/ Edison, N.J.)
On today’s game:
Serbia is a good team, they executed really well and they played really hard. So, it was a good win for us.
On his play:
I just want to do whatever I can to impact the game any way possible, defensively or offensively.
How important is it to have a strong finish today to head into tomorrow’s gold medal game?
It’s great. We’re going to the gold medal game. It should be a lot of fun and hopefully we’ll bring the gold medal back to the United States.
How big was Caleb Swanigan’s play for the team today?
Really big. He got into their big man’s head (Nikola Popovic), got him frustrated a little bit. He took that big charge at the end of the game. He just played strong down low.
After several blowouts, was it good for you to have a tough game?
Oh yeah, because we had a few big wins before this. This didn’t feel like a 20-point win. It was a close game throughout the game and we just pulled away at the end. We just picked it up on defense and did the little things well to extend the lead.
What did coach Showalter talk to you about at halftime?
To keep doing what we were doing, execute, rebound and pressure the guards, especially No. 4 (Stefan Peno) because he was the one who really distributed the ball well and found his teammates. We just had to put pressure on the guards and that’s what we did.
Malik Newman (Callaway H.S./Jackson, Miss.)
As the captain, how do you keep the team together and not panic in a situation like today?
The guys trust in me, so if they see that I’m calm, then they know that everything’s going to be okay. They just take my lead. If they see that I’m panicking, then they have the right to panic. But, I just try to stay calm and stay focused.
On Caleb Swanigan’s play against Serbia:
He played great. Our bench has really been coming in for us. Henry (Ellenson) in the last game, Caleb tonight with the big rebounding and finishing. He really brought a lot of energy off the bench, him and Tyus (Battle) both.
Is that your strength, the depth on the bench, especially in games like this?
Yes, because we have 12 elite players. All those guys have a chance to be starters on this team. So, those guys coming off the bench, there’s no let-up.
Did you tweak anything at halftime?
Not really. He just told us it was going to be a hard-fought game, so we just had to go out there and be ready to play.
Ivan Rabb (Bishop O’Dowd H.S./ Oakland, Calif.)
What kind of team was Serbia?
They’re really tough. I wasn’t sure what to expect coming in, but they play pretty hard. I actually like the way that they played.
On his performance against Serbia:
I just came in and did what coach asked me to do, which was rebound the ball. Even though some of the rebounds didn’t go on my scorecard, I’d tip them to teammates for buckets or rebounds. I got a few deflections. I just did whatever I could do to help us extend the lead and win the game. I think I made a really good impact on the game.
On the play of Tyus Battle and Caleb Swanigan:
Oh yeah. They dominated the game in spurts. Every player on this team is capable of doing that, it’s just when it’s your time, you have to come out and play. That’s what they did really well today. I was happy for both of them.
Was it good to have to fight through a game like this prior to playing for gold?
Going into halftime, I was like, ‘we finally got a real game on our hands.’ This is what we’re used to back at home. We always have big games and I was happy to have a real competitive game. It felt really good. It was fun.
Caleb Swanigan (Homestead H.S./Fort Wayne, Ind.)
On tonight’s win:
It was huge. Getting to the gold medal game was our only goal and we made that goal and now we just have to go out there and win the gold medal.
On his defensive effort:
Defense, on this team, it’s just all about winning. So, I was going to go out there and do anything it took to win. It was defense today and we needed it. I did my best to do it.
On pulling away early in the fourth quarter:
We just got stops and those stops led to easy baskets. We got to the free-throw line. We were the aggressor, so that really was the big difference.
On the play of Tyus Battle:
Tyus was huge. He came in, gave us a lot of energy, played hard on defense and he gave us everything we needed.
Was it important to have a close game like this to get refocused before the gold medal game?
We’re already focused. It was big winning this game, but we know the job is not done.