USA U16 Men Earn Unofficial 73-52 Scrimmage Win Over Puerto Rico
After traveling for nearly 24 hours from Miami to Bélem, Brazil, the 2019 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team had time for an afternoon snack and a couple hours to rest before taking to the court Friday night for a light practice to shake off the stiffness that comes along with an extended day of travel.
“It was well needed because we were traveling for a long time, it took three planes to get here,” said Jalen Duren (Roman Catholic H.S., Pa./New Haven, Del.) of his team’s Friday night practice. “We needed to go practice and get warmed up after sitting for so long.”
The following morning the U.S. headed to the Guilherme Paraense Arena, site of the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, in order
There, they went up against Puerto Rico in a friendly scrimmage, something that allowed coaches on both sides to assess any final points of strengths and weaknesses their teams have before the tournament begins Monday.
It was especially helpful for the U.S. squad, which had been going up against each other since training camp began May 22, to finally face an international opponent.
“We appreciate Puerto Rico for joining us in trying to get ready for the tournament,” said USA U16 head coach Mike Jones (DeMatha Catholic H.S., Md.). “To get off the plane yesterday and get our guys moving a little bit last night was great, but it was even better to see us go against someone else today. Clearly there are a lot of things we can do better, but I’m very pleased that we were able to get a real feel for the FIBA game with FIBA refs and the physicality of it.”
The USA won the first three quarters by two, three and five points. But then, the squad began to click and rolled to a 24-13 fourth quarter win for the overall 73-52 victory.
“I think we can improve on starting stronger,” said Will Jeffress (McDowell H.S./Erie, Pa.), who had eight points, four boards, three steals and a pair of blocked shots in the scrimmage. “We had a pretty slow start. We’re just getting our legs under us. We probably need to do a little better of a job in our warm-ups. We did well sharing the ball and in the end, playing with energy. Overall, we finished strong. We just have to shoot the ball better and take care of the ball.”
“It was fun, the first time playing against a different country,” added Duren, who scored eight points and had two blocks. “It was good to get out and play. It gave us as another opportunity to get better.”
Leading the USA’s scoring efforts were A.J. Griffin (Archbishop Stepinac H.S./Ossining, N.Y.) with a high of 16 points and Amari Bailey (Sierra Canyon H.S./Chatsworth, Calif.) added 14.
Despite shooting 43.3 percent (26-60 FGs) from the field, the USA struggled from beyond the arc, hitting just 10.5 percent (2-19 3pt FGs) from afar, something Jones knows will improve.
“These are 15- and 16-year-old kids,” said Jones. “This is brand new for them. But there are a lot of things that we’re going to focus on that were positive. We’re going to grow and build from there. Thanks again to Puerto Rico for putting us through a really good, competitive scrimmage. I think both teams have something to look forward to this week.”
The USA U16 men have two additional practices June 2 to hone some final details before their opening game against Argentina, which tips June 3 at 5:15 p.m. (EDT).
Duran feels his team is close to being ready and said he will use the final day of practice to, “work on execution, playing better, making better plays, keeping everything tight and playing together.
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The FIBA Americas U16 Championship will be played June 3-9 and the top four teams will qualify for the 2020 FIBA U17 World Cup for Men. All the games will be available to watch live online at FIBA.com.