Additional Quotes: USA U18 Men 115, Puerto Rico 71
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USA head coach Bill Self (University of Kansas)
On tonight’s game:
We didn’t create much at all from our defense today. Yesterday we could have scored a lot (more points off of our defense). But today our defense really didn’t create a lot of stuff. They did a great job of handling the ball against full-court man. We’ve got enough weapons that we can put some points on the board. I thought we played bad offensively and then you look up and you still shot 51 percent and had 32 assists, so that’s pretty good.
How fun is it to coach a team that has so much balance?
It’s been a really fun team to coach. In the second half tonight we didn’t share the ball like we had been. We’ve been really good at sharing the ball and we still had 32 assists, but it’s a fun team. Hopefully Tyrese (Maxey) isn’t nicked up too bad because he’s been as good a guard as we’ve had so far in the tournament and we definitely need him moving forward. But it’s fun. They’re great kids. For only being together a week I think they handled themselves pretty well.
Is the assist total directly related to the team’s chemistry?
It may be. But I thought, maybe I’m being critical, but the second half we had a chance to really share it and make the extra pass, and we didn’t do it as well in the second half. I think our chemistry is getting better. We play our best when we have Tyrese out there a good percentage of the time.
How do you keep the team mentally focused?
This is probably the biggest athletic event that I’m sure all 12 have had thus far in their life. They have a chance to play with USA Basketball in the U18s, so I think that right there should be enough. You look at the final score and say that, obviously we did some good things but as a coach you’ll watch the tape and say, ‘guys, what are we thinking?’ We had many opportunities to have many more good possessions, and we kind of faltered on that for some reason.
What would you like to improve upon after this game?
When you pull a bunch of kids together who are used to being the dominant guy, sometimes it’s hard to get them to understand that going and making a play, most of the time, means that you’re making it for somebody else. They’ve all been in situations where coaches have wanted them to take guarded shots more than they’ve wanted other players to take open shots. And now we don’t have to play that way. So, it’s a little different. We’ve handled it pretty well, but I certainly think that we can do a better job.
Quentin Grimes (College Park H.S./The Woodlands, Texas)
You had 32 assists on 42 buckets and 11 of your 12 team members scored. How important is it to get everybody involved?
Definitely we want everybody to have a good feel for the game going into possibly the championship game. We want to make sure everybody’s confidence is high, so we can go out there and play as a team and get the job done.
On the USA’s defensive pressure:
Coach stresses that every day, before each shoot around, before each game, to be defensively intense and in their face. Then everybody has a lot of freedom out there on the offense.
What’s the key to your success moving forward?
Sharing the ball offensively. Today the ball kind of got stuck a little bit, we kind of lapsed on the defensive end. We need to go out there the next game and share the ball a little more.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Bishop Miege H.S./Shawnee Mission, Kan.)
Your team didn’t look as sharp in the second half, what can you attribute that to?
We were just more worried about the score instead of ourselves. Coach Self tells us all the time to play each possession instead of playing to the score. I think we were playing to the score a little bit more than we were playing to each possession. I think we can play better together, play for ‘we’ instead of ‘me.’
How’s the team chemistry?
I think it’s great. Since we’re hanging out all the time, we’re comfortable and we can trust each other. I feel like we’re confident that when we pass the ball to each other that we’re going to knock down shots and make the right plays for each other.
What do you need to work on to ensure you get through the knockout round?
Play hard every possession, like the game’s on the line every possession. We need to just not take any possessions off.
Coby White (Greenfield H.S./Goldsboro, N.C.)
You played super aggressive tonight. Is that your mentality going into every game?
Yeah, whatever I have to do. Whatever it takes to win the game. My mentality going in is just to get a W.
Does the team pride itself on its defensive play?
Yes. Coach tells us to pick up for 94 feet. Just go right at them on defense and hound them on every possession.
Do you feel the preliminary round is important to build team cohesiveness?
Definitely, because the real tournament starts Thursday. We’re going to play some really good teams. For us to come together is going to be really important.
What do you need to do moving forward into the knockout round?
Just playing together, wanting to play with each other, playing aggressive and definitely getting it done on the defensive end. One of our strengths is defense, so we’ll definitely get it done on that end.
Be sure to watch all the games, streamed live on USA Basketball’s Facebook page, as the USA competes for a fifth-straight U18 gold medal.