Additional Quotes: 2017 USA Men’s U17 World Championship Team 119, Taiwan 45
USA head coach Don Showalter (USA Basketball)
On tonight’s game:
You’re always a little bit leery the first game. We have six new guys from last summer, so they’re not used to the international competition, the rules, how games are called, so it was really a good game for us to get into the flow of what international basketball is like. Obviously there will be some tougher games for us than this was. But, I was pleased with the fact that we kept playing no matter what the score was. I think that’s a pretty good sign when our kids can keep playing until the very end, regardless of the difference in the score.
I was really pleased with that. I was pleased with our ball movement, we had great ball movement at times. We hit some wide-open shots because of our ball movement. I was really impressed with our defense; our man-to-man defense was really good. We tried some different stuff out of it, some switching, and they adapted really well.
How will you approach Turkey tomorrow night, a team with a vastly different style of play?
They have a really, really good, probably one of the best big men in the tournament. We just want to come out with the same mindset as we did tonight and realize that we’re not going to win games in two possessions. It’s going to take several possessions; it’s going to take quarter after quarter after quarter of being really solid. I think our kids understand that.
How pleased were you at the USA’s strong start?
It’s kind of an eye-opener when you have a team like France, which is really, really good, getting beaten by an opponent who thrives on 3s and is not near as physical as France is, and probably not near as talented as France is. And yet South Korea won the game in overtime. So, you relay those things to your players and hope they react in a proper way, which they did tonight.
Obviously they were out-manned at every position. But you know what? They had some great ball movement, they moved the ball from side to side to try to get good shots up. Our bench is just so good. We bring guys off the bench that teams will struggle with. Taiwan is one of those teams where if they think they can play with you, they are better. Fortunately we took them out of that thinking right from the start.
Wendell Carter Jr. (Pace Academy/Fairburn, Ga.)
How was it to finally start playing?
It felt great. All the great practices we had, all the great bonding we’ve done on and off the court, helped us. When we stepped out on the court it felt like we’ve been playing with each other forever.
They’re a great team. We might be a little bit taller than them, but they fight. That’s what we do, we fight for our country on the basketball court and that’s what they did, they fought hard for theirs.
On his team’s unselfish play and ball movement:
We have a lot of fun. We’re very unselfish. We look for each other. We look for the best shot, not just a good shot. And that’s how we came out with a great win.
Turkey will be a totally different team than you saw here tonight. How will you combat Turkey’s style of play?
It might be different, but I can’t wait. I love competition and I can’t wait to get out there.
Kevin Knox II (Tampa Catholic H.S./Riverview, Fla.)
On tonight’s game:
We came out really focused and we were ready to play. We were all hyped and ready for our first game. So, we came out focused and handled our business. I think we were up 19-2 at one point. We all came out focused and we just did what we had to do.
Jordan was the final teammate to score. Were you trying to feed him the ball at that point?
I think he knew he was the only one without a bucket, so when he got out, he ended up with five, so he went out and did what he had to do. We all know he’s good and can score the basket. He just made a few easy layups, so we just gave him some more opportunities.
You had six newcomers to FIBA rules, how did they fare?
Everyone who didn’t play last year, the new guys, they all did really well today. A lot of people had double digits. They came out and they were focused. We helped them out with the plays in practice and everything, so they came in ready to play. They knew what they had to do. They came out and did a good job.
Austin Wiley (Spain Park H.S./Hoover, Ala.)
What was it like to step out for the first time in a USA Basketball uniform?
It was great. It was really exciting, high energy. It was just amazing.
How were you able to open with that 16-0 run?
We just decided that we had to up the tempo and realize that we’re playing more than our opponent, we’re playing for ourselves and our country. We were trying to keep the tempo high and play great ‘D’ and play the best we can.
Is it difficult to keep up your level of play after the game is essentially won?
I just try to play at the same level every single time. It seems like if you try to play down to somebody’s level, it’s not going to look good. So, we just try to play with high energy all the time.
On the USA team’s play overall:
The whole team played great. Wendell played great. Gary played great, everybody off the bench, Jaren played great, our point guards, on the wings, everybody played great all around. Everybody played their role.
What does it say about Taiwan never hanging their heads?
They’re a good team with great heart. I have nothing but respect for them.