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Jeff Van Gundy (USA head coach)
First of all, I’m very thankful to the people of Argentina for hosting such a great event. I thought the fans tonight were a tremendous home court advantage, so we are very appreciative of their passion and their respect. On the court, Argentina is a great team. They were beating us up pretty good. We were down 20 in the second half. But, because of great play, particularly by Jameel (Warney), who is sitting next to me, and a bunch of other guys, our defense kicked in and we were able to come up with a hard-fought win.
What did tell your team down by 15 points at half and 20 points in the third quarter?
Well, when we were down 20, it was more of what they were doing than what we weren’t doing. We thought we had some good shots in the first half that we didn’t make. But, I was very impressed with how well Argentina played. We are a very good defensive team, and they made us look like a bad defensive team for the first 22 minutes. At halftime, all we talked about was trying to stay the course - stick with it. We got down 20, but then our defense really kicked in. We made some good plays offensively, too. We started going inside to Jameel (Warney) and Jameel delivered in a big time way.
How important was it to you and USA Basketball to win this competition?
We took the competition very seriously. Our team was into it. They wanted to do something special together, and we knew going on the road, both to Uruguay, which was an outstanding team, and here at Argentina, which is a great, great team - that we would have to play well and be mentally strong. To me, that was the greatest thing about the win tonight. We grew in our mental strength. We stuck together and we fought together. Ultimately, we won together.
Did playing against Uruguay on the road prepare your team for tonight, and what was unique about the defense on this USA team?
I think our experience playing in Uruguay against Uruguay on the road - we got down after one quarter in that game by, I think, nine, and we found our way back into that game, as well. I think that gave our team some confidence. As far as defensively, I think USA Basketball has produced some great, great defensive teams. Obviously, we are not the same players as the national team usually puts together, but our guys can be as proud of this moment as the national team guys that have won Olympic gold medals. This is a significant competition. It’s a significant experience for our guys, and they are going to be bound together now as gold medalists forever.
Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
What did that comeback show from this team?
It showed our resiliency. A lot of us put a lot of time in the gym. We are used to grinding it out. We are used to trying to make it. We are used to feeling like we are not quite there yet, and used to being counted out. That came out of us tonight. We wanted to come down here, show that we can win a gold medal, and that is what we did.
What did you think of the offensive effort down the stretch?
When coach Van Gundy put this team together, he wanted shooters. He wanted guys that can put the ball in the basket. We have great playmakers in Darrun (Hilliard), great point guards, Reggie Williams, Xavier Munford. We have shooters surrounding everyone on the floor. Jameel (Warney) is a beast. I’m just rambling, but we put that win together.
What does this gold medal mean to you?
It’s the accomplishment of something that I did not think I would ever come close to in my entire lifetime. It’s hard to put into words. There are some things you can’t put into words. Words don’t suffice. But, I get to wear a gold medal around my neck, take it back to my friends and family to share it with them, because they helped me get to where I am. I can’t wait for that.
Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
How great of an experience was tonight, the win and the comeback?
This is something that you will never forget. It’s really something that you tell your grandkids. You take this with you forever, no matter where you go. That sense of pride knowing you are never counted out, no matter what the circumstances you are up against. There’s nothing you can’t do and nothing you can’t get by. Doing that with these guys, in such little time, it’s amazing. It’s really amazing.
What was the difference in the second half?
Honestly, it was nothing. We just knew we were down and had to play a lot harder. We had to have each other’s backs. There wasn’t anything that we came in here and said or any adjustment that we made. We had to bunker down, grind and see it to the end, and we were able to do that.
Was defense the key during that comeback?
It was always the key. We knew they were a great team - a fantastic team. Those guys have been together a long time. They have a lot of great players. We knew coming into this game that our defense would carry us and help us win this game. We didn’t come out too hot in that first half. In the second half, we bunkered down and got the job done.
What does it mean to you to be named to the all-tournament team?
It doesn’t really matter. That can speak for itself. It is what it is. My focus this whole trip was to get a gold medal. If I can bring a gold medal to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that’s good enough for me. This was just a great thing to add to my resume. To do this and do it with this group of guys, with such little time that we had to develop trust and comfort level with each other, it’s just amazing. It’s an amazing feeling inside. You would have to experience this to really know what we are feeling right now.
What was it like playing for coach Van Gundy?
I played for his brother (Stan Van Gundy, head coach of the Detroit Pistons). I think that is deserving of an award in itself - playing for two Van Gundy’s in a year (laughing). That’s award-worthy. He’s a great guy. He cares about you, and he wants nothing but the best for you and your career. You see why he’s been to the finals and done all the things he’s done. You saw why we won this game. He’s a great coach, but all around, a great person. He truly cares about your well-being and wants the best for your career.
Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
This was definitely a great experience the last week playing in Uruguay and also here. Today’s game was really great. The crowd was into it for all 40 minutes. That’s a great Argentina team. We had a slow start, but we picked it up in the second half with the coaching staff believing in us for the whole 40 minutes, telling us to never give up. They gave us confidence to push back and not get pushed around and not give up. I’m proud of our performance and I’m happy we won today’s game.
What does winning MVP mean to you?
It’s great. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be great these last couple weeks. My role was to come off the bench and give 110-percent effort. I’m happy to do that for this team, and I’m happy to win MVP, but I’m most happy we won that gold medal. I’m happier about our team performance than my individual performance.
What’s the feeling like winning this gold medal?
It feels amazing. We put in all this hard work over the last few weeks to get to this point. We were down 20 in that third quarter, but we just stuck together and we are happy we found a way to get the win.
How did you feel going to the free throw line to put the game away at the end?
I had missed some free throws earlier in the game, but at the end, you have to clear your mind and make those final two to get the win.
What was the key to tonight's comeback?
Just getting stops. Getting stops and trusting each other. We played hard. We had to play harder in the second half than the first half. That’s what mattered, and we kept our composure at the end.
What does this gold medal mean to you?
It’s great right now. Just two weeks ago, we didn’t know each other. We were just trying out to make the team. Fast forward two weeks, and we have a gold medal. It was a great performance. Give credit to this coaching staff for getting us prepared. I’m happy.