USA Men Secure Hard-Fought Wins in First Two Games at FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup
The USA 3x3 U18 Men’s World Cup Team (2-0) opened its play at the 2021 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup on Wednesday in Debrecen, Hungary, with an exciting 21-17, come-from-behind win over Estonia (0-1) and a 21-13 victory over Slovenia (1-1) that saw the USA post an 11-4 closing run.
The USA will wrap up preliminary round play against Latvia (0-1) at 8:05 a.m. EDT on Aug. 27. All games are streamed live at FIBA 3x3 YouTube.
The USA’s opening game was close for the first few minutes. The score was 6-5 in Estonia’s favor after Kyle Filipowski (Wilbraham & Monson Academy, Mass./Slate Hill, N.Y.) added a point at 6:09. Estonia worked its way to a six-point lead, 14-8, at 3:35, helped by three 2-pointers during an 8-3 stretch.
“In the first game, we all had a couple of jitters, but we wanted to run our action,” said Keyonte George (iSchool of Lewisville/Lewisville, Texas). “We shared the ball and got it to our teammates in different spots. We just played with each other and put each other in spots where we could be our strongest.”
Two points from Filipowski and a score from Eric Dailey Jr. (IMG Academy/Tampa, Fla.) kicked off a 13-3 U.S. run to close the game. Estonia got two free throws and one score from the field as the USA got five points from Filipowski and six points from George, including the game-winning 2-pointer with 7.0 seconds on the clock to seal the 21-17 win.
George led the USA with nine points, Filipowski finished with eight points, Dailey added three points and Gradey Dick (Sunrise Christian Academy/Wichita, Kan.) had one point.
“Going into it, I'm sure we all had a little bit of nerves, to finally be out there, being in a different situation, in a different environment,” Filipowski said. “But when we got down five (points) late in the game, we just kept our heads straight. We stayed together as one team, and we were able to get the win.”
Against Slovenia in its second game, the USA did not pull away until halfway through the contest. The USA went ahead 5-1 when Dailey scored at 8:16, but Slovenia cut it to 7-6 at 6:24. Two points from Dick and one from Filipowski gave the USA a 10-7 cushion, but Slovenia responded for its final time, converting a two-point play to make it 10-9 at 4:43. The USA put together five unanswered points before Slovenia made a 2-pointer to make it 15-11 at 2:34. Three quick points from the USA improved the USA’s lead to 18-11 and all but secured the win. George scored the USA’s final three points and ended the game with a driving basket with 40 seconds on the clock for the 21-13 win.
“We definitely got better on communicating on the switches on defense, just getting down in a stance, closing out with high hands, that is probably what we did better in the second game than in the first,” George said.
The preliminary round will conclude on Aug. 27, and the top two teams from each pool advance to the quarterfinals on Aug. 28. The quarterfinal winners play in the semifinals on Aug. 29.
The semifinal winners play in the gold medal game at 2:05 p.m. on Aug. 29, and the semifinal losers meet in the bronze medal game at 8:40 a.m. on Aug. 29.
“It's an incredible experience,” said Filipowski of the USA men’s and women’s team being able to watch other games. “This is my first time out of America and just being able to not only play in 3x3 but support the girls team as well is incredible. We're all representing USA, so we all want each other to win, which is a great feeling to have some support.”
The 2021 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup, which features men’s and women’s U18 national teams, also will feature a dunk contest, skills contest and shoot-out-contest, with medals being awarded to the top three finishers in each event.
The USA coach is Nick LoGalbo (Lane Tech College Prep, Ill.), with Kelly Carruthers (Bowie H.S., Texas) as the USA assistant coach, however, in FIBA 3x3 basketball coaching is not allowed during games.
The FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup has been held annually since 2011, except in years that include a summer Youth Olympic Games (2010, 2014, 2018). In the five previous FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cups in which the USA men have played, the U.S. men have compiled a 33-11 overall record while winning gold in 2019 and silver in 2012.