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2018 U.S. Open Basketball Championships Gets Interesting, Bracket Play Starts Saturday

  • Date:
    Jul 21, 2018


Day two of the four-day USA Basketball 2018 U.S. Open Basketball Championships in Westfield, Indiana, saw preliminary round pool completed for most of the groups and the seedings determined for the all-important bracket play.  


After two days of playing preliminary round games, it’s now one and done time for all of the teams.


The excitement for the competition, which features 72 teams from 25 states and Canada, is still alive. The dreams of claiming a U.S. Open Basketball Championship title is still alive for every team.


“It’s an awesome experience. We’re from Yuma, Arizona, so we came across the country for this,” said Keith Simmons, head coach of boys eighth grade Yuma Rising Stars team.  “It took us 28 hours (driving) to get here. It’s good to be here playing against teams we would never see. This team we played (today) from Connecticut – they had some great talent. The big kid was very good. It just helps our team to develop and get better.


“As a coach, this is great. You get to see what other coaches are doing, and how they handle situations. You just pick things up. It’s basketball, so you’re stealing things from everybody, trying to see how they do it and you can implement it for your team. And, for the players, it helps them understand that there is something outside of where they come from. There are other basketball players out there that are great, and if you want to be great, you have to work harder than the next guy, so it’s good for them to get out here and see the effort they need to put in.”


“I think it’s important to come here and learn something. Learn something from every game you play, from the other players. You can sit and watch and just soak up the games.”


Coach Simmons wouldn’t get any argument from Mu Tomlinson, head coach of 24/7 Select boys eighth grade team that is from California. 


“This is great. Coming from California, we hoped to play multiple teams from different areas of the country and the best of the best from those areas. It’s been awesome to come this far and play some great teams. We’re still a little daunted by all of the travel and the excitement of playing with USA Basketball, but it’s still a great experience for us.”


“You really don’t know what to expect. I told our guys, ‘hey, let’s go play and have fun and compete to win some games.’ I think that’s what this experience is supposed to be about, getting outside of your area to play some new faces and hopefully at the end of it, you can look back on some good wins.”


John Hightower, who is coach of the eighth grade boys Hightower Basketball Skills Academy team (Mass.), echoed the sentiment: “We love the tournament. It’s very well organized, it’s great competition…it’s very well done.”


“This has been excellent. It’s been different for us to play on some new courts against some new teams. It’s a good experience for us. Teamwork here is important. We’re getting out and exploring and adding to our game,” said Domineque Williams, coach of the NYC Exodus girls 13U squad.


And now, it’s time get serious, it’s time to move on to the bracket play for all 72 teams.  


While winning your preliminary pool earns you a number one seed for bracket play and helps your team build momentum, it by no means guarantees that you will advance. 


After all, it is now win or go home time.


“I’m satisfied with the way they have stepped up, really in the last game they showed what they’re made of. Now we just have to get ready for the next game,” said Tremayne Jones, whose Reading KTB Team finished atop of the 13U pool JJJ standings with a 4-0 record.


Asked what would be the A number one thing he will tell his team tomorrow as they head into their elimination round games, Jones responded, “Well, the same thing that kept us in all of the other tournaments, it was defense.  Everything starts with defense.  Every time we play defense with high intensity we win games, close games. I’m not worried about the offense, they’re good with the offense, but when they play defense we’re good, we can compete against anybody.”


NYC Exodus coach Williams echoed Jones defensive emphasis.


“Defense. That’s what we’re stressing. We feel like defense wins games. You get stops or if your offense isn’t working out, defense is what is going to keep you in the game.”


While momentum is generally thought of as a good thing, it’s a fickle thing and doesn’t always carry forward into elimination games in a good way.


“So far, we’ve been progressing very well in our pool.,” said Hightower, who has led his team to a 3-1 start.  “We’re just trying to work through a lot of the mental parts and raise the young men up and try to get them to perform the best they can. We’ve had a tremendous year this year, this is our first year.  We’re very happy to be here.


“Now we’re going into the bracket play. Our players have to focus on playing each game like they’ve played every other game because typically what you do not want to see is coming out of the pool in first place and you have a huge emotional letdown, all the adrenalin goes out of the body and you play against a team that they should beat and they lose. It happens, it’s happened to this team a couple of different times, but I think now that hopefully they have matured past that. 


“It’s our goal to win the whole thing, that’s what we want to do. If we don’t win it, we’ve had a good time and grown as individuals."



The shot clock remains a popular item of discussion at the U.S. Open Basketball Championships.  While the NBA, WNBA and men’s and women’s college basketball all play with a shot clock, at the high school level, only eight states (California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington) allow unlimited use of a 30- or 35-second shot clock.


At the 2018 U.S. Open Basketball Championships a 30 second shot clock is in use and for the most part, the coaches like it.


“I’ve liked it, I like it,” said Reading KTB mentor Jones. “I was a little shaky at it but I think I’ve adjusted to it.  It rewards you for defense, our opponents have had a couple of turnovers because of it.”


“I love it,” remarked coach Hightower. “It’s a college experience, it allowed us to win a game yesterday that we wouldn’t normally win where the other team senses that you’re bigger, more athletic, you have certain things you can do. In a regular AAU game they’ll drag the game out and it doesn’t allow for our skill to shine, to flourish.  So it’s a huge advantage if you know how to play and coach basketball. If you don’t know how to play and coach basketball you’re going to have some problems.”


“This has been excellent. It’s been different for us to play on some new courts against some new teams. It’s a good experience for us. Teamwork here is important. We’re getting out and exploring and adding to our game,” add Williams.


“The rules are definitely different, and it’s been a little challenging to adjust. They are good though, I like them. It’s just different to have a shot clock. We don’t normally play with a shot clock. You have to be visual out there and make sure you are making the right, smart decision.”




The 2018 U.S. Open Basketball Championships are a USA Basketball youth initiative that is intended to add opportunity, standards and quality to the youth basketball environment.  


Offered through USA Basketball’s Youth Development division, the U.S. Open Basketball Championships is an inclusive tournament structure in which existing basketball tournaments meeting USA Basketball approved youth development standards qualified teams for the 2018 U.S. Open Basketball Championships. 


In addition to following established development standards, and using modified international rule, the U.S. Open Basketball Championships requires all coaches to possess a valid USA Basketball Coach License. 


The eighth grade boys and girls gold medal games of the 2018 U.S. Open Basketball Championships live on Sunday, July 22 (12 p.m. EDT with boys following at 2 p.m. EDT). The 13U boys and girls gold medal games on July 22 will be available for streaming at, as well as on the USA Basketball Facebook page and USA Basketball YouTube channel.



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