2016 USA Men’s U17 World Championship Team Cruises To 119-45 Victory Over Taiwan
The 2016 USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Championship Team (1-0) tipped-off preliminary round play at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Men with a rousing 119-45 victory over Taiwan (0-1) on Thursday night in Zaragoza, Spain. Running out to a 16-0 lead before five minutes had elapsed, the U.S. left no doubt as to the outcome, just the final score.
All 12 USA athletes put points on the board, including seven who finished the night with a double-digit scoring effort. Kevin Knox II (Tampa Catholic H.S./Riverview, Fla.) led the charge with 15 points, and a game-best six steals; Wendell Carter Jr. (Pace Academy/Fairburn, Ga.) had 14 points and three blocked shots; Troy Brown (Centennial H.S./Las Vegas, Nev.) and Collin Sexton (Pebblebrook H.S./Mableton, Ga.) scored 13 apiece; Austin Wiley (Spain Park H.S./Hoover, Ala) had the game’s lone double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds; Carte'Are Gordon (Webster Groves H.S./St. Louis, Mo.) chipped in 11 points and Markus Howard (Findlay Prep, Nev./Chandler, Ariz.), who dished out a team-best four assists, rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points.
“You’re always a little bit leery the first game,” said USA U17 head coach Don Showalter (USA Basketball), who is now 24-0 as head coach of USA U16/U17 teams since 2009. “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.”
Unselfish play and red-hot shooting led to a 33-11 advantage after the first quarter as the U.S. hit a sizzling 70.6 percent (12-17 FGs) of its field goal attempts in the first quarter alone. The red, white and blue also notched 17 points off of 12 Taiwan turnovers in the opening period.
“It felt great,” said Carter. “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.”
After winning the opening tip, Carter went hard to the basket for an and-one, giving the USA a 3-0 lead just 20 seconds into the game. Knox scored six points and had a pair of steals in an 8-0 run and with 7:02 to play in the first stanza and the USA up 11-0, Taiwan took a timeout. However, the U.S. scored the next five points and when the USA’s opponent got on the board at 6:24, the game was well in hand, 16-2. After taking its largest lead of the first stanza, 30-5, the Americans closed with a 33-11 advantage.
“Obviously they were out-manned at every position,” said Showalter. “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.”
The red, white and blue never let up and won the second quarter 34-13 for a 67-24 halftime lead, and proceeded to win the third quarter 24-9 and the fourth 28-12.
Hitting 26-of-36 from the line, the Americans eclipsed the USA U17 men’s records for made (24 versus Serbia in 2014) and attempted (34, three times, last versus Serbia in 2014) free throws.
Six of the USA athletes donned a USA Basketball jersey for the first time and didn’t miss a beat.
“Everyone who didn’t play last year, the new guys, they all did really well today,” said Knox. “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.”
Jordan Brown (Woodcreek H.S./Roseville, Calif.) was the final U.S. athlete to score and did so with 2:18 remaining in the third period and finished with five points and four rebounds.
“They’re a great team,” added Carter of Taiwan. “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.”
In all, the USA scored 42 points off of 29 Taiwan turnovers, but only gave up eight points off its own 15 miscues. The USA also outscored Taiwan 66-24 in the paint, 27-4 on second-chance points and 65-18 off the bench. The largest lead of the game was a 76-point, 119-43, advantage and the USA’s opening 16-0 run was its longest scoring streak of the night.
The U.S. finished the night shooting 53.7 percent (44-82 FGs) from the field, while holding Taiwan to just 28.3 percent (17-60 FGs) and outrebounded the Taiwan side 57-28.
“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,” said Wiley, whose mother played in the 1992 Olympic Games and was playing in his first USA Basketball game tonight. “We were trying to keep the tempo high and play great ‘D’ and play the best we can.
“I just try to play at the same level every single time,” he added. “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.”
The U.S. will continue FIBA U17 World Championship play June 24 against Turkey. Following a day off, the USA will cap its preliminary round games against Egypt on June 26. Turkey (1-0) came from behind to defeat Egypt (0-1) 71-61 in the final game of the night.
“(Turkey has) a really, really good, probably one of the best big men in the tournament,” said Showalter. “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.”
In the other games today, South Korea (1-0) outlasted France (0-1) 90-84 in overtime, Finland (1-0) clipped China (0-1) 65-58, Bosnia-Herzegovina (1-0) earned an 84-59 win over Dominican Republic (0-1), Canada (1-0) fought off Australia (0-1) 81-78, Spain (1-0) picked up an 86-55 victory over Mali (0-1), and Lithuania (1-0) downed Argentina (0-1) 74-57.
After playing each of the teams in their preliminary round group, all teams advance to the round of 16 on June 28. Winners from the round of 16 advance to the medal round quarterfinals on June 30. The semifinals will be played on July 2, and the finals will be on July 3.
Assisting Showalter and the U17 team are prep head coaches Mike Jones (DeMatha Catholic H.S., Md.) and Miles Simon (California Supreme AAU).
Athletes eligible for this team must be 17 years old or younger (born on or after 1/1/99) and U.S. citizens.
FIBA U17 World Championship for Men
First held in 2010, the FIBA U17 World Championship features the world’s top 17-year-old and younger players. FIBA currently holds U17 World Championships every two years. Under the direction of Showalter, the USA earned the gold medal in the first three editions, compiling a perfect 23-0 record overall.
In the inaugural (2010) FIBA U17 World Championship for Men, the USA captured gold with a perfect 8-0 record and Bradley Beal was tabbed MVP. In 2012, Jahlil Okafor earned MVP honors and was joined on the all-tournament team by Justise Winslow as the U.S. again captured gold. Most recently the U.S. made it three-straight golds as Malik Newman earned tournament MVP honors and Diamond Stone listed on the all-tournament team.