USA Men’s U16 National Team Ready To Begin Competition
- Gallery: USA - Argentina Scrimmage
They came from all over the country, from Florida to California and many points in between for two goals: to first make the 2017 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team and then capture gold at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Men.
On June 5, the 12 athletes selected for the USA U16 squad accomplished their first goal. Over the next five days they will leave everything they have on the court to make sure they return to the United States of America with their second goal in hand.
It took 31 hours of travel to get to Formosa, Argentina, and soon after the team arrived June 11, the 12 young Americans and the USA staff headed to practice at Estadio Cincuentario, where the event, which serves as a qualifying tournament for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Championship for Men, will tip-off June 13.
“We’ve come together really good,” said 6-foot-10 forward James Wiseman (The Ensworth School/Nashville, Tenn.), who elicited gasps from everyone in the gym Monday night with a rim-rattling dunk in a scrimmage against host Argentina. “We’re communicating on the floor, on the offensive and defensive end. Now we’re going to focus on the little things so we can become a great team.”
Four-time defending U16 champions, the USA squad will begin defense of gold in a clash with Puerto Rico at 3:15 pm (all times are EDT), which will be streamed live online at Facebook.com/usabasketball and YouTube.com/FIBA.
“We’re getting better,” said USA U16 head coach Don Showalter, who is 20-0 as the USA U16 head coach since 2009. “The scrimmage last night certainly was good for us, just to get used to going up and down against an international team. We’re going to be a really good defending team. We can get out and put some pressure on people. I love the way our bench played. Seven guys came in off the bench and really gave us a lot of energy. We still need to work on some things. We need to be more consistent on offensive rebounding, but I like the way our team is coming around.”
The squad has conducted 21 practices over the past 13 days. During that time, the 12 team members have had time to bond and are beginning to feel like a family, a single unit ready to take on all comers in the Americas. Showalter has taught the athletes his plays, put in his offenses and stressed the importance of his pressure defenses. The only thing left to do is play.
“I think we’re very ready,” said 6-foot-7 guard/forward Scottie Barnes (Cardinal Newman H.S./West Palm Beach, Fla.). “We’re all really good together, we’ve come together as a team. We all play well with each other like we’re brothers. We play together like we’ve been with each other for a long time. When we’re on defense, we picked up what we need to do and we know what our goals are.”
After Puerto Rico, the USA on June 15 will go up against Dominican Republic at 5:45 p.m. (all times EDT) and will cap pool play with a June 16 clash against Mexico at 1:15 p.m. The top two teams from each pool – Argentina, Canada, Paraguay and Venezuela are in the other bracket – advance to the June 17 semifinals and the gold medal will be contested June 18.
“This team, they all have to really buy into our defensive philosophy, a pressure defense, and I saw a little more of that last night in the scrimmage,” said Showalter on what it will take to win a fifth-straight U16 gold. “There’s still room for improvement with that. Rebounding is a big key for us. Even though we have the size, we don’t always get on the offensive glass like I wish they would do more consistently. Those two things are really a big key for us. And also, when we see a team that really slows us down and we get in a five-on-five, half-court situation, we’re going to have to do a better job of executing in a half-court situation.”
What do the athletes feel is the key to winning five games in five days?
“Communication, intensity on defense and getting rebounds and doing the little things, paying attention to details will be the key for us,” stated Wiseman.
“Our defense and our trust in each other,” chimed Barnes without hesitation.
If the USA’s final practice, which was more intense and charged with energy, is indicative of the style of basketball that fans will see from the red, white and blue this week, “Must See TV” over the next five days is going to be online viewing of the USA U16 squad.
|2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship|
WHERE TO WATCH: Facebook.com/usabasketball or YouTube.com/FIBA