USA vs Puerto Rico - Things To Know
The USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team squares off against Puerto Rico at CFE Arena in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday, Nov. 23, at 7:30 p.m. EST in what will be the USA’s first-ever FIBA World Cup qualifier. Here are the things to know about the matchup:
Coach Van Gundy's Overview Of Puerto Rico
"Puerto Rico is an incredibly deep, talented, tough, resilient team. They shoot the 3-ball extremely well, they shot 46 percent from 3 in the AmeriCup. They have terrific guard play and good size."
Coach Van Gundy's Keys To The Game
"We have to have an intensity and a grit that they (Puerto Rico) possess. They have shared experiences together, they have continuity and been together for a long time, and we have five days together. So somehow, we have to build that intensity and passion that they have built over the course of a lifetime."
The Start Of Something New
It will be an entirely new process for not only the USA, but the rest of the world, in qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The first competition window, from Nov. 23-27, will feature two games for the U.S. against Americas Zone first-round Group C opponents Puerto Rico (Nov. 23) and Mexico (Nov. 26).
The second competition window, Feb. 22-26, 2018, will see the USA host (site TBA) two home games against Cuba (Feb. 23) and Puerto Rico (Feb. 26). Group C first-round play will conclude on the road for the red, white and blue, but not until June 28 and July 1 against Mexico and Cuba.
The USA team is comprised of primarily NBA G League athletes. For more information on the new World Cup Qualifying process, check out our crash course here: WCQ Crash Course
Yes, An Away Game In Orlando
The USA’s qualifying opener against Puerto Rico was scheduled to be played in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but due to devastation from recent natural disasters, the game was relocated more than 1,000 miles northwest to Orlando. Still, the USA will play as the guest on Thursday, and will be the home team against Mexico on Feb. 26 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex Fieldhouse in Greensboro, N.C., home of the Charlotte Hornets NBA G League affiliate Greensboro Swarm.
Van Gundy Looks To Continue Winning Form
Jeff Van Gundy, who serves as an NBA color commentator for ESPN when he’s not on the USA sideline, is back and more eager than ever to coach a USA team. This past Aug. 25-Sept. 3, Van Gundy served as the head coach for the gold-medal winning USA AmeriCup Team, which defeated Argentina 81-76 in Cordoba, Argentina, on Sept. 3, with a furious second-half comeback.
Van Gundy’s team of NBA G League players won two true road games during AmeriCup 2017 – in Argentina and another in Uruguay – en route to an unblemished 5-0 record.
Five Are Back In The Mix
Not only is Van Gundy and USA assistant coach Mo McHone back with USA Basketball, but so are five players from the AmeriCup squad, including tournament MVP and current Texas Legends player, Jameel Warney. Warney shot a team-high 65 percent from the field and averaged 12.8 points and a team-best 8.6 rebounds per game for the USA in South America.
Also back from the AmeriCup team are Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce), Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns), Jonathan Holmes (Maine Red Claws) and Xavier Munford (Wisconsin Herd). Drew averaged a team-best 5.0 assists per game, while Hearn averaged 10.0 ppg. and 3.6 rpg. Holmes started the first three games for the USA in preliminary round play and averaged 5.7 ppg. and 3.3 rpg. before being sidelined with an ankle injury, and Munford boasted a healthy tournament line of 10.2 ppg., 3.8 rpg. and 3.0 apg.
Plenty Of History
The USA and Puerto Rico men’s senior national teams last played in 2014 as part of the USA’s pre-World Cup exhibition tour. The Americans won the game 112-86 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
USA teams own an all-time record of 52-9 against Puerto Rican sides and last lost to Puerto Rico 88-83 at the 2005 FIBA Americas Championship (now known as AmeriCup). Although both are starting a clean slate in World Cup Qualifying games, the USA holds an 8-1 advantage over the Puerto Ricans in World Cup games.