Additional Quotes: USA 91, Mexico 55
Jeff Van Gundy (USA head coach)
I was very, very proud of our team. Nine days together, they worked hard. It’s really hard to put a group together that quickly unless players are selfless, and we had a bunch of selfless guys who sacrificed not only their time, but participating in the G League, to represent their country. I couldn’t be more proud of them. I’m happy for the result, because I really think this type of competition will help their careers. The thing that I gained in my short stint with USA Basketball is a true appreciation for the players who have not had it easy. I really appreciate what they go through on a daily basis.
After holding the large lead in the first half, were you concerned at all about a counter-run by Mexico?
First of all, Mexico came into the game injured. They’re missing their top three guards. They didn’t participate due to injury. But, we’ve had our own injuries.
I thought we played exceptionally well early. A lot of teams get a big lead early, and then you somewhat expect it to be easy, and it wasn’t. They got it to within five. I thought the critical part of the game was when we were able to stabilize ourselves and take it from five to 11 at the half. Our guys made a bunch of good plays, and then we started the second half with a dominant disposition.
On injuries to players:
Larry Drew pulled his hamstring the day before the Puerto Rico game in practice. And then we took an injury today to probably as valuable a guy as you can have in Reggie Hearn. So, we had injuries during this period of time. But our guys, thankfully we had great depth. And, I couldn’t be more proud of Travis (Wear) here, because people are going to look at the points and the rebounds. But, what I saw was a guy who did things on the court tonight that is winning basketball, whether it’s in international competition, G League or an NBA game. He took a charge, (made) extra passes, (had) timely rebounds, it was a terrific game by him.
On the team’s rebounding:
Van Gundy: I think we mentioned that a few times in practice over the last nine days.
Travis Wear (laughing): Yeah, it was kind of a sticking point.
Van Gundy: But in a kind tone of voice, always. Always (laughs).
On the team’s depth and the physicality of the international game:
USA Basketball, I’m learning a lot. Sean Ford has been so important and vital in trying to teach me about what goes into winning at this level. He always says to me that we should never sacrifice speed for size. We should always play a speed game. The more I watch, the more I learn and what we have to do is speed and intelligence. You have to have basketball intelligence to play international basketball, because your mental strength is going to be tested. It’s more physical and I think Travis (Wear) and the players would agree. It’s more physical and more demanding than any G League game, just because of the amount of physical contact.
What was the biggest difference between your first game and this game?
I thought in the first game, we got hit with a haymaker. They made the first six shots for 3s. I apologized for the team. It was a bad plan, that was on me. Thankfully, they bailed me out because from that 18-10 deficit through the rest of the game, we competed at a really high level. I don’t think people understand how hard of a game that was, from Puerto Rico’s talent, to the crowd, to really being our first game. Trying to play well and play well together just five days in is very challenging on the players. That’s where I was really proud – they really shared the ball, there was no one trying to better their career at the expense of somebody else. I hope it benefits all of their careers, but they didn’t do it trying to put up numbers. And I was really proud of that.
You largely started from scratch, with just five players coming back from the FIBA AmeriCup, how did you deal with that?
Well, the five guys we brought back gave us a good nucleus. What we saw with many of the other players, Travis (Wear) included, is that going forward if they’re available, we would love to have them back because the advantage the other teams have on us is that they get to practice more, they’ve played together since a young age and they have that continuity. I would love to have more continuity as we go, recognizing that this is a tremendous sacrifice by the players. The more continuity we can have from (qualifying) window to window, the better it will serve us.
Markel Brown (Oklahoma City Blue)
On the USA’s win:
This was a much better win today. But in this situation, we’ll take every win however we can get it, no matter how much we win by.
I think we played great collectively as a group. Everybody came out there and played their part well, whether rebounding the ball, playing defense, passing it or scoring it.
How about how you played?
For me, I’m just happy to be here, happy to be able to put this USA on my chest, go out and play for my country and go out and have another opportunity to play the game that I love.
Xavier Munford (Wisconsin Herd)
What does it say about the NBA G League that you guys have all this talent, and you’re here to represent the USA?
It lets you know that the G League has a lot of talent, a lot of different guys, versatile guys that can play different positions.
Coach Van Gundy did a great job with all these guys, putting us together in a short period of time and getting the best out of us.
Where do you feel you are at in the qualifying journey and what’s the next step?
The next step is just we have another window in February, I believe. Whoever is on that team, I’m sure if coach coaches it, it is going to be another great team that gets the best out of the guys, and the guys are going to win that.
Very gritty, very gritty team, much like Puerto Rico. They fight, they fight to the end, but we didn’t play the score. We know it’s about point differential, so we just wanted to keep playing, keep playing hard and not let up.
What’s the biggest difference with international basketball?
It’s much shorter, so you can’t come out and play the game like an NBA game or G League game and start slow. You got to come out and put your foot on the pedal from the start. The rules are different, you just have to adjust to it. The ball is different, things like that. But at the end of the day, it’s just basketball.
Travis Wear (South Bay Lakers)
We came out and executed our game plan. We hit them first right off the bat. We let them go on a little run at the end of the (first) half. But, we came back and executed down the stretch and got it done.
On the difference in the physical nature of the international game compared to the G League:
Definitely, the whole freedom of movement that we get in the NBA and G League doesn’t apply here. You have guys holding you on every other time you get a touch, rebounding you’ve got guys, four or five guys crashing at the same time and you really have to focus on boxing out. It’s a much more physical game and obviously we had to come out and execute to win tonight.
On coming together as a team in nine days:
Coach mentioned it. It’s hard to form as a team in this short period of time. But, I think a lot of our guys really locked in and you could see it in the results that we had. We executed the game plan, we played as a team, we made the extra pass constantly, and we just focused on our game plan and executed it.