2018 USA U18 Men Ready For U18 Championship Tip-Off
The 2018 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team has conducted five practices, including a 40-minute scrimmage against Puerto Rico, as a full, 12-member unit since the squad was officially announced on June 5.
After going up against each other in practice since training camp launched with 33 athletes on May 30, they’re more than ready for tonight’s 6:15 p.m. (EDT) tip-off against Dominican Republic in the 11th edition of the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men. The tournament, which runs June 10-16 in St. Catharines, Canada, will see the top four finishing teams qualify for the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup.
“We’re much more organized than what we were a week ago,” said USA U18 and University of Kansas head coach Bill Self. “And the guys have figured out how to be aggressive in that time. We’ve made some progress. We made some improvement in the scrimmage against Puerto Rico and hopefully that will continue and we’ll be a different team by the time we reach the medal round. It starts today and guys hopefully understand that we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. It should be competitive but it should also be fun.
“As a coach, even when you have your own team for a month or a month-and-a-half, the first game you’re always thinking you’re not prepared for this,” added Self. “Well, this is on steroids right now because we haven’t had time to prepare if they throw different things at us. We tried to put in a way to guard some actions, at least have the guys be somewhat familiar with it. We got some zone offense in and things like that. But, if they were to try something funky defensively, we’d better score in transition.”
Owning the most medals at the U18s than any other nation, having earned eight golds, one silver and one bronze, over the past 10 competitions, the USA is generally considered a favorite heading into the tournament. However, Canada, which has also, along with Argentina, sent teams to all 10 previous U18s, has home court advantage and is one of the teams eager to halt the USA’s quest for a fifth-straight U18 gold medal.
If history is any indication, however, knocking off the United States and standing atop the podium will be no easy task. USA men’s teams are 53-2 in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships and won gold in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, while capturing silver in 2008 and bronze in 2002. The gold medals those years were won by Argentina (2008) and Puerto Rico (2002).
“The last game we lost, but it was just one game and we just had a few days to prepare,” said Kansas-bound Quentin Grimes (College Park H.S./The Woodlands, Texas), who lost to the World Team as a member of the USA squad at the 2018 Nike Hoop Summit. “This is different. We’ve had a lot more time. We got to bond a little bit more with the players at training camp and being up here in Canada. I feel we are really good, strong and have a good chance to get out there and win a gold medal.”
The USA Men’s U18 National Team will continue Group A play in a June 11 (8:15 p.m. EDT) clash against Panama and tip-off against Puerto Rico on June 12 (6 p.m. EDT).
“We’re ready to play, for sure,” said Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Bishop Miege H.S./Shawnee Mission, Kan.). “You can only practice so much. We’re excited to finally get out there and play.
Ready to roll❗️ It's 🇺🇸 #USABMU18 gameday versus 🇩🇴 Dominican Republic in our first game of the @FIBA Americas U18 Championship.— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) June 10, 2018
📍 St. Catharines, Canada
⏱️ 6 PM EDT
📺 https://t.co/HKI3aH3kAz pic.twitter.com/VLHwbrMhwo
Featuring a new tournament format this year, following the preliminary round teams will be seeded within each group, and all eight teams advance to the June 14 quarterfinal games. Previously only the top two teams from each group advanced to medal-round play.
The semifinals will be played June 15, and the finals on June 16 when the U.S. hopes the hard work pays off with a shiny gold medal.
And the key to winning gold in a week’s time, according to Robinson-Earl is, “just sticking together and trusting each other. Just being a team. We know who we are on and off the court, we feel comfortable with each other and we’re ready to start playing tonight.”
In addition to Grimes and Robinson-Earl, the 2018 USA Basketball Men’s National Team includes: Cole Anthony (Archbishop Molloy H.S./Briarwood, N.Y.); Armando Bacot (Trinity Episcopal School/Richmond, Va.); Ayo Dosunmu (Morgan Park H.S./Chicago, Ill.); Kamaka Hepa (Jefferson H.S./Barrow, Alaska); Matthew Hurt (John Marshall H.S./Rochester, Minn.); Trayce Jackson-Davis (Center Grove H.S./Greenwood, Ind.); Josiah James (Porter-Gaud School/Charleston, S.C.); Tyrese Maxey (South Garland H.S./Dallas, Texas); Mark Watts Jr. (Old Redford Academy/Detroit, Mich.); and Coby White (Greenfield H.S./Goldsboro, N.C.).
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.