USA U17 Men Prepare for Relatively Unknown
When the 2018 USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Cup Team takes the court against China on June 30 in Santa Fe, Argentina, for its first game of the FIBA U17 World Cup, both teams will be facing a new opponent. That doesn’t mean they won’t have any idea of what to expect.
The USA U17 staff members have been busing hunting for and collecting film on upcoming opponents from past qualifying events and friendly scrimmages.
“We’ve been able to watch some film on some of these teams that we are going to face,” said USA assistant coach Stan Waterman (Sanford School, Del.). “What you look for is tendencies, because the rosters certainly are not the same. There will be some different guys on each team, but we look at each program and the things that they do, the offenses they run and how they defend pick-and-rolls, whether or not they get back in transition defense. So, we are looking for tendencies in countries and their style of play.”
And, while the USA is preparing for other teams, obviously, those teams are preparing for the USA.
“We have to have a good understanding of what we are trying to do,” Waterman said. “Offensively, there is a counter for everything, so when they take away something, they give you something else. It is just an awareness piece for us. We have to make sure we use our offense and our defense structures as a base, but we still play basketball.
“We are really pleased with where the team is right now. We’ve come off of a really, really solid training camp. We’ve had a chance to play in some pretty competitive exhibition games, and then we’ve had some pretty spirited practices. I think we are beginning to establish and identity for the kind of team we want to be.”
After training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the USA U17 men traveled to Argentina on June 23 and took on Puerto Rico in a scrimmage on June 25, which the USA unofficially won 106-46. That was followed by an exhibition tournament that saw the USA defeat France 82-46 on June 26 and Serbia 100-65 on June 27
“It’s been really great to learn more about them as people,” said USA assistant coach Scott Fitch (Fairport H.S., N.Y.). “I think it allows us to connect more, and I think that we keep improving on the floor. You are trying to improve so that you peak hopefully in the gold medal game. We are on the path to doing that.”
The USA is 3-0 all-time against China in FIBA U17 World Cup men’s play, but the last time the two teams met was in 2014.
“It is tough,” Fitch said. “We have not seen China in person. I think we are mainly going to focus on ourselves. You can see different actions that they do within the old game films, so at least you can practice a little bit of that. Or the defenses, they play a two-three matchup, and so we will work on that today in practice, so we aren’t surprised by anything. But, it’s hard for them to prepare for us, too.”
After the first game, however, film will be easy to come by, and the preparation strategy will change again.
“I like to see them in person, so for me, it will make a big difference once games start here,” Fitch said. “It is hard to judge things like height and speed on film. When you see them in person you can get a better feel. I love having familiarity in person, so I definitely will feel more prepared after China for every game we play.”
The USA men, four-time U17 gold medalists who will be looking to defend a 30-0 record at the event, open against China at 7 p.m. EDT on June 30, followed by Mali at 4:45 p.m. EDT on July 1 and Serbia at 7 p.m. EDT on July 3.
Following the preliminary round, all teams will take part in the round of 16 on July 4. Round of 16 winners will advance to the medal quarterfinals on July 6, the semifinals will be on July 7 and the gold medal game will be on July 8.
All of the USA’s games in the FIBA U17 World Cup will be streamed live on the USA Basketball Facebook page at facebook.com/usabasketball.