FIBA World Cup Qualifying Play Resumes, USA Looks to Remain Perfect
FIBA Men’s World Cup Qualifying is back.
The USA men open training camp Wednesday evening for the third window of the first-round qualifying games with some familiar faces as well as some new ones.
Including eight players from previous USA World Cup Qualifying teams, 14 players will compete for a roster spot.
The USA training camp will be held June 20-26 in Houston, Texas, and the U.S. will play its final two first-round games, facing Mexico and Cuba.
Need a crash course on what all this is for? Look no further.
What’s At Stake
What's on the line is a qualifying berth for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup that will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in China.
This USA training camp will be used to select the 12-man team for the USA’s third and final window of FIBA World Cup Qualifying first-round games. The U.S. faces the challenge of playing two road game, squaring off against Mexico on June 28 in Mexico City and Cuba on July 1 in Havana.
“Each FIBA World Cup Qualifying window poses different challenges, and being on the road for our final two first-round games and playing in front of their passionate fans, while playing two very well coached national teams, will be big challenges for this team,” said USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy.
Who Will Be There
Fourteen players will attend the training camp hoping to earn a spot on the 12-man USA roster that will be announced later in the week.
Eight of those players have previous FIBA World Cup Qualifying playing experience.
All 14 players possess NBA G League experience, and 9 players possess some NBA experience.
Back competing for a USA roster spot from the November 2017 USA World Cup Qualifying Team that finished 2-0 are: Reggie Hearn (Grand Rapids Drive), Jonathan Holmes (Maine Red Claws), Amile Jefferson (Iowa Wolves) and Xavier Munford (Wisconsin Herd).
Returning after leading the USA to a 2-0 record during the February 2018 USA World Cup Qualifying second window are: Taylor Braun (Salt Lake City Stars), Aaron Harrison (Stockton Kings), David Stockton (Stockton Kings) and Rashawn Thomas (Oklahoma City Blue).
Additionally, Trey McKinney Jones (Fort Wayne Mad Ants) and Marcus Thornton (Canton Charge) return after having to withdraw from the February USA World Cup Qualifying Team training camp after signing 10-day contracts with NBA teams.
Rounding out the USA training camp roster and looking to make their first USA World Cup Qualifying Team roster are: Alex Caruso (South Bay Lakers), Myke Henry (Memphis Hustle), Nick Johnson (Austin Spurs) and Kevin Jones (Baskonia, Spain).
Hearn, Holmes and Munford also represented the USA at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup and helped lead the U.S. to the gold medal with a perfect 5-0 record.
“We’re very fortunate to have back a good number of players who have played in previous World Cup Qualifying games. That shows the experience of representing USA Basketball and their country was meaningful to them, and obviously it was beneficial to their careers,” Van Gundy said. “I’m also very excited about new players who will be participating in this training camp. Athleticism, versatility and having mentally and physically tough players are important attributes that all of these players possess."
Directing the Red, White and Blue
Back to again lead the USA is former NBA head coach and ESPN/ABC commentator Jeff Van Gundy. Van Gundy led the USA to a 5-0 record and the gold medal at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup and has directed the USA to a 4-0 record in the first two windows of the World Cup Qualifiers. Assisting Van Gundy on the USA bench will be NBA G League Erie Bayhawks head coach Josh Longstaff and former Georgetown University coach John Thompson III.
The What and Whys of FIBA World Cup Qualifying
Under FIBA’s new competition system, a total of 80 national teams from FIBA’s four regions of Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe are competing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers over 15 months, looking to earn a qualifying berth into the 32-team 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup competition that will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in China.
The FIBA World Cup Qualifying games are being used to qualify 31 of the 32 nations that will compete in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. China automatically qualified as the host nation. Five teams will qualify from Africa, seven teams from the Americas, seven teams from Asia and 12 European teams will qualify.
The USA enters the final games of the first-round 4-0 and atop of the FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying Group C standings. Puerto Rico (2-2) and Mexico (2-2) currently list tied for second, while Cuba (0-4) is fourth. The USA is already assured of being one of the three teams from its group to advance to the FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying second round.
After completion of the first round, the top three finishing teams in each of the four, Americas first-round groups advance to the second round. The three advancing teams from Group A, which includes Argentina, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay, and the top three finishing teams in Group C will form Group E, while the top three finishers from Group B (Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela) and Group D (Bahamas, Canada, Dominican Republic and U.S. Virgin Islands) will form Group F. The three second-round windows of competition will take place Sept. 13-17, 2018; Nov. 29-Dec. 3, 2018; and Feb. 21-25, 2019, and will feature teams playing home and away games versus the three advancing teams from the other preliminary round group.
Following completion of the Americas second-round games, seven teams will qualify out of the zone for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, including the top three finishing teams from second-round Group E and Group F, and the best fourth placed team between Group E and Group F.
The current Americas World Cup Qualifying results/schedule is available at usab.com/mens/wc-qualifying/schedule.aspx.
Looking Back on the USA's First Two WCQ Windows
Opening the FIBA World Cup Qualifying play in November 2017, the USA squad battled to a pair of victories.
Playing Thanksgiving Day evening, the U.S. earned its first World Cup Qualifying win after recording a hard-fought 85-78 victory over Puerto Rico at the University of Central Florida’s CFE Arena in Orlando. In the win, the USA received a double-double of 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds from Jameel Warney and 17 points and eight rebounds from Hearn.
Facing Mexico three days later, Nov. 26, 2017, the Americans started the game with six-straight 3-pointers and relied on a balanced scoring attack to easily defeat Mexico 91-55 at the Greensboro Coliseum Fieldhouse (NC). Four U.S. players finished with 14 points each, including Markel Brown, Holmes, Munford and Travis Wear, who added 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
The second window of FIBA World Cup Qualifying first-round play featured two home games for the USA in February in Santa Cruz, California. The USA earned its third straight World Cup Qualifying victory with a convincing 84-48 win over Cuba. Rodney Purvis led the U.S. in its win over Cuba with 14 points, Xavier Silas added 13, Stockton scored 10 to go with three assists and Devin Williams tallied eight points and game-highs of 12 rebounds and six assists.
Closing out the February games facing Puerto Rico, after leading by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, the USA withstood a furious rally by Puerto Rico and held on to come out victorious 83-75. Harrison led the USA with 16 points; Larry Drew II added 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds; while Purvis scored 12 points.