Additional Quotes: USA U19 Men's National Team 82, Greece 76
How does that game rate for intensity and environment?
That was as hostile of an arena as I’ve ever been in, and I’ve certainly been in my fair share. It’s a great credit to our young players and team for them to hang in there, be resilient, and find a way to win this type of game.
You had different guys at different times come through and make big plays for you. It was truly a total team effort wasn’t it?
We did. Jayson Tatum’s offensive rebound above the rim and put back stands out for me. Josh Jackson’s great defensive rebound late in the game. Obviously, Harry Giles made big plays throughout. Terrence Ferguson answered with a couple great 3s. Jalen Brunson had 30 points. Boy, he really shot the ball well. He’s our leader. He’s come so far since we left Colorado Springs. He’s had an incredible tournament, and we wouldn’t be where we’re at without him, that’s for sure. But you’re right, it was a team win, and at this level with what we’re trying to accomplish that’s what we need.
In this win, what were you most proud of?
When things went against us, and we had a number of times when it did, we stuck together. We didn’t fracture. And that’s not easy to do in this type of environment with this young of a group.
Now you have to regroup the team for the gold medal game and you’ll play Croatia again.
Croatia is big and strong and they’re going to be ready to go. We respect them a great deal, We’ve played against them, and we have to be ready to go. We didn’t win anything tonight. We just gave ourselves the opportunity to.
Talk about the game and the setting.
It was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life by far. That was the most intense arena I’ve ever played in. Even though we were wearing white, it was an away game. It’s something I know I’m never going to forget. We didn’t play great; I know we can get better. It was a great win for us.
Late in the game you got poked in the eye and you went on and made two important free throws. Talk about what was happening there, and how you managed to make both free throws.
Just concentration. I was seeing a little bit of double. So I tried to close my eye; just really concentrate; and then I just used the right follow-through; get myself right, and they went in.
Do you feel like your 3-point shooting has come around? The last two games you’ve really shot the 3 well.
I think it’s always been there, but I’m getting a lot more confidence and more aggressive. The coaches have been saying that I really need to stay aggressive in order for our team to win. If it’s scoring or passing, just being a really good leader.
That game got you to the gold medal game. Now you have to regroup and play Croatia for gold.
Even though that felt like a gold medal game, that just got us one step closer to our goal. We’ve got to be focused and be ready for it.
How was that for a game experience?
Oh my, it was probably greatest game I’ve ever played in. Just with the crowd and it being sold out, and especially being at their home. It’s always great to beat a team at their home, especially in the FIBA tournaments. It was a great experience for me and for my teammates.
A lot of guys including yourself made big plays down the stretch, this was really a team win don’t you think?
Oh yeah, most definitely. It just kicked into our heads that we had to pick it up. Coach got on us, we weren’t playing to our best of our abilities, but a couple of players knocked down shots, got boards, made D plays, just that stuff, and that’s how we came out with the win.
You hit a couple of big 3s. What do you remember about those 3s?
Oh I remember all of my shots (laughing). It was a close game and the coaches they always tell me, ‘just keep shooting, keep shooting. If you get the ball, shoot the ball.” You know it just kicked in. As soon as I got the ball from Jawun (Evans), it just came into my head, ‘shoot the ball, coach says shoot the ball.’ So I got it, followed through, and it went in, and I went really hyped that time. Then I got a skip pass from Jaylen (Brunson), that is when I hit my second 3, and that’s when I tried to quiet the crowd – naw, that didn’t work.
You also were called on for some defensive work.
That’s where I see my key to the team, to lock down their best offensive player with the other team. That’s what I tried to do this game. I got into foul trouble, but I still stayed aggressive every play on defense and we came up with the win, so we did a good job on defense.
That game wasn’t for the gold, the next game is for gold and you have Croatia again.
We’re going to handle it the same way. We’ve got to play even better than we did last time. This time we’re going to keep the pedal down.
How was that for a game experience?
That was a crazy game. That was the biggest atmosphere I’ve played in since I’ve been playing ball. You know it was crazy, 10,000 people against you; you’re on the road; but everybody sacrificed and just gave it their all. I’m just so happy we got the win.
This was truly a team effort. Down the stretch different guys made big plays.
Yeah it was (a team effort). I had a put-back dunk; Ferg (Terrance Ferguson) hit a couple of big 3s; Jalen (Brunson) was scoring left and right; Josh (Jackson) got a block at the end; it was a lot of guys contributing. It was a good win.
What do you feel in an intense game like that game was?
Competitiveness from both sides. Nobody wanted to lose this game. You could feel that playing and watching the game. I think that’s where it started. Everybody gave 110 percent, and that’s why it was a great basketball game.
That was just to get to the gold medal game, now you have to play in the gold medal game and you have to play Croatia again.
It’s my third gold medal game in a row. I’m hoping to go 3-0 and do something that hasn’t been done by the 19-and-under, win back-to-back. It just shows how hard we’ve worked, everything we’ve gone through, if we come out on top tomorrow