Continual Improvement The Key For USA’s U19 World Championship Gold Medal Dreams
June 13, 2015
That was the starting point in the USA’s quest to repeat as gold medalists at the FIBA U19 World Championship.
Twenty-one training and practice sessions over 14 days is all the USA coaching staff of head coach Sean Miller (Arizona), Ed Cooley (Providence) and Archie Miller (Dayton) had to work with to prepare the 12 players selected to represent the United States in the U19 worlds.
The American squad opens preliminary play today (June 27) facing Iran, then plays medal favorite Croatia on Sunday, and following a day off Monday, completes its preliminary play against Egypt on June 30.
Unlike many of the teams competing in the U19 championship over the next 10 days who have trained together for much longer periods of time, the U.S. team will look to continue to jell and get better with each day, each game.
“I think the biggest thing right now is our team is improving. We haven’t been together for very long, and I can’t emphasize this enough, we have a young group. The good news is I believe that our ceiling in terms of room for improvement is very high and as long as we’re consistent with our effort each day we can grow by leaps and bounds,” said Sean Miller. “I believe were a better team right now then when we showed up on day one and that’s the name of the game for us. To be the most ready for the beginning of this tournament and then hopefully continue to improve as the tournament goes.”
Following completion of the preliminary round games, the championship becomes a win or end your gold medal hopes. All 16 competing teams will advance to the round of 16 that will be played on July 1. The winners advance to the medal-round quarterfinals on July 3, while the round of 16 losers drop out of medal contention and will compete out for 9th-16th places. The semifinals are on July 4, and the finals are on July 5.
“Every game matters, the first three aren’t elimination games, but it positions us the very best we can be can be positioned for the gold medal game by winning all three games.” stated Sean Miller. “So our objective is to win, but I think as we go through each game and play different styles and learn more and more about ourselves; do the things we need to do to be a really good team; what I hope as we enter elimination play that again we judge ourselves by improvement; that we’re further along and a much better team then we were for example on today.”
The 12 players selected to represent the USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship Team included Justin Bibbs (Virginia Tech/Dayton, Ohio); Jalen Brunson (Stevenson H.S./Lincolnshire, Ill.); Jawun Evans(Kimball H.S./Dallas, Texas); Terrance Ferguson (Homeschooled/ Dallas, Texas); Harry Giles (Wesleyan Christian Academy/Winston-Salem, N.C.); Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep, Calif./Southfield, Mich.); Chinanu Onauku (Louisville/Lanham, Md.); L.J. Peak (Georgetown/Gaffney, S.C.); Caleb Swanigan (Homestead H.S./Fort Wayne, Ind.); Jayson Tatum (Chaminade College Prep/St. Louis, Mo.); Allonzo Trier (Findlay Prep, Nev./Seattle, Wash.); and Thomas Welsh (UCLA/Redondo Beach, Calif.).
Arriving in Crete, Greece, June 21, the USA played a pair of “friendlies,” besting host Greece 90-82 on June 23 and Argentina 86-75 on June 24.
Two additional practice sessions followed and finally the championship is here.
“On offense we’ve been careless with the ball and we had a number of turnovers against Argentina which really affected the outcome as much as anything.,” said Sean Miller on keys to the USA team being successful. “Our ability to pressure the other team, not just steal it and create turnovers, but to be able to wear on them with our press and our effort I think is big because to me that’s our advantage – our depth and our athleticism.
“For us to play in this tournament and not be able to use that as an advantage, then I don’t know if it will end where we want it to end. We’re on a constant quest to get better at pressuring the other team. “
Seven wins in 10 days is what it will take to do what USA teams did in 2009 and 2013 when they won gold.
The USA squares off against Iran at 10:45 a.m. EDT. All of the USA games will be streamed live onyoutube.com/fiba.