Category Archives: USA Basketball

Liston Wins Gold at World University Games

ListonThe USA Women won Gold today in Kazan, Russia at the World University Games with a 90-71 victory over host Russia in the Championship Game. Duke guard Tricia Liston averaged 8.2 points per game in 13.7 minutes of action, during the tournament. She made 42.9 percent (9-21) of her 3 point field goal attempts and was a perfect eight for eight from the free throw line.

The toughest game for the United States was a 79-78 victory over Australia in the semi-finals. Australia stormed out to a large 1st quarter lead before the United States battled back with tenacious defense to build a 17 point lead. However, Australia wasn’t finished as they mounted a furious comeback and took the lead with less than a minute to play in the game. Crystal Bradford (Central Michigan University) scored the decisive basket with 14 seconds remaining in the game.

The USA was led by Bria Hartley (Connecticut), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Connecticut) and Odyssey Sims (Baylor).

In preliminary round play, the USA was not challenged and easily defeating Mali (120-32), the Czech Republic (101-61) and Brazil (105-75). Liston scored 13, 14 and nine points respectively in those three games.

The quarterfinals saw the USA defeat Sweden 103-72. Liston scored 11 points in the victory.

Stanley Johnson: All-American

Stanley Johnson, Photo by Andrew Slater of BDN

Stanley Johnson, a 6’6″ wing from Mater Dei, has experienced  quite a bit in the past year. As a freshman, the Fullerton native helped the Monarchs of Mater Dei win their eighth state title, grabbing fifteen rebounds in the state title game against De La Salle. Johnson was named a MaxPreps Freshman All-American.

Last June, Stanley was expected to give a defensive presence to the USA U-16 team as they competed for the FIBA Americas U-16 Championship in Mexico. Although Johnson was the youngest member of the USA U-16 team, he wound up starting the first two games in Cancun, against Brazil and Argentina, respectively, before suffering a fracture-dislocation of his left index finger at 4:03 of the first quarter of the second game, which eliminated his ability to play for the remainder of the tournament. Despite the injury, the 2014 prospect enjoyed representing his country, his time with his eleven teammates, including roommate and friend Tyus Jones,  and scored fourteen points in the opening game against Brazil.

The youngest of five, Johnson gets some of his pedigree and tutelage from his mother, Karen Taylor, who was able to play both forward positions at Jackson State and professionally in France. He wears the number 41 in honor of her, believing that four plus one means grace.

Last month, Stanley, a sophomore, was tasked by Mater Dei head coach Gary McKnight with guarding Duke 2012 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, at the City of Palms in Ft. Myers, FL. Johnson held arguably the most explosive scorer in the 2012 class to two first-half points by forcing him to use his right hand. This Monday at the HoopHall Classic at Springfield College, he overcame  a sub-par shooting night (3/10 FG) to contribute a team-high fifteen rebounds and nine points, while utilizing his athleticism and physical play to employ solid defense on Christ The King. The night before he won the 2012 Hoop Hall Slam Dunk Contest with an explosive dunk off of a pass out of the bleachers from his senior teammate Katin Reinhardt.

Stanley Johnson spoke afterwards with Blue Devil Nation about a variety of issues, including his experience with USA Basketball, his mother’s influence, Duke’s recent interest, defending Austin Rivers, and being labeled a team player.

 

 

Talk about the game today. 

It was a really good win for the team. We had a lot of guys get into the game, which is always good. We played really hard and I think it was one of the best games we played this season… and it showed on the scoreboard. I think if we keep playing like we did today,  we’ll be pretty good.

Well, you guys play a pretty competitive schedule.

Playing a competitive schedule makes you play harder because you have the ability to lose at any time. Our coach says that he’s going to schedule us in these competitive games because we play harder in these harder games and he wants to challenge us.

[private]

I guess the long-term benefits would be success in the state playoffs. That’s what you guys are going for.

Yeah, the long-term goals are the state playoffs and trying to win another state title, where we’ll hopefully be more used to the physical and tough competition than the opposition will be. That’s the game plan.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are getting to the basket and just playing with physical play. I try to be a bit physical out there. My weaknesses are my jump-shot and my ball security. I’ve got to work on that a little bit more. 

And do you work on that in the off-season?

 I work on that all of the time. I do it through the season, all twelve months of the year. You always can get better and so I want to try to get better at everything.

In terms of emulating players, is there a guy you try to model your game after?

I like LeBron because he does a lot of everything. He scores, defends, rebounds, and can pass the ball well too. He gets a lot of triple-doubles.

How tall are you?

I’m 6’6.”

And you have a few more years of potential growth. Do you like his style?

Yeah, I like him because he puts up high numbers. I just like how he can do everything out there. I like that. I want to be an all-around player. 

Which schools are after you right now?

The whole Pac-Twelve, Kentucky, Duke, Auburn, Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, all of the above. All of the schools I’m very interested in.  There are so many schools, I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out, but those are most of them.

How does it break down in terms of those with formal offers and those who have shown serious interest?

Well, I have a lot of offers on the table. I haven’t gotten a chance to go out to colleges and stuff because I’ve been busy with school. I haven’t gotten a chance to get out, but I’m going to try to get out soon, as soon as I can.

Are you planning on doing some visits in the off-season? Well, between the AAU season and the high school season..

 I’ll be trying to visit a lot of colleges and stuff cause that’s when I’ll get a chance. I’ll have my really off period.

Are you a good student? Because you’re articulate, I didn’t know.

Yeah, I’ve got between a 3.3 and a 3.4.  I try to do well in school, but, yeah, during the off season I’m going to try to visit schools.

In terms of a timeline, are you in a rush to decide?

Oh, no, I’m not rushing this at all. I feel like I just want to go through this once. I don’t want to rush this decision because I don’t think anything good comes from rushing a decision. I feel like my recruiting process is just getting started. I want to make sure that everything is even, make sure I really want that school. I don’t want to go through the process more than once.

What will you be looking for whenever you do decide?

Oh, well, I live in California, so I like that home feeling of California. My high school coach is awesome. I’d like to have that kind of feeling. 

He’s built quite a powerhouse at Mater Dei.

Yeah, they accept me. They like the way I am. They’re cool with me.

They embrace you.

Yeah, they embrace me. So I want that, and I just want it to be good. A good offense and a good defense.

What style of play do you prefer? I really rarely get to see you during the high school season, but I’ve seen you at camps and in AAU basketball. Do you prefer an up-pace tempo or one that employs more half-court sets?

I like fast-paced, but I can play the half-court system. You know, as a team, we try to do both things and so I feel comfortable in either system. 

You’re just trying to win the game, whatever it takes.

Yeah, whatever it takes to win the game. 

Who’s the toughest player you’ve faced so far?

Oh, Austin Rivers. 

Austin Rivers?

Yeah, I had to guard him last year at the City of Palms. He was an absolute killer.

This gentleman that I respect was telling me that you did a tremendous job of guarding Shabazz Muhammad this year.

Oh, Shabazz. I guarded him pretty well. I think he only had like 16 on me for the whole game, but then I came out in the middle of the fourth quarter and he got some points at the end. But Shabazz, he’s really good. He’s strong left-handed and his right is alright, so my coaches were telling me to stay on his right. “Just stay on his right.” Make sure he goes right and then I just got the opportunity. I mean, he’s my size. He’s got my athletic ability, so I tried to make him go right every time. I tried to slow him down a little bit and then when I came out of the game, he got some more points.

Sort of on the same topic, but how would you assess your defense at this time in general?

I feel like I do a lot of agility drills and I feel like my feet are on point. I feel like, with my quickness, I can guard anyone from a one to a four. Fast or small, big or tall. (laughs)

And can you go back to that matchup with Austin one more time?

Austin could do everything, I mean, I couldn’t find a weakness with him. I played him left and he hit a floater off of me. I played him off and he hit a jumper over me. I played him tightly and he drove right by me. He hit the mid-range. He was doing everything. 

He’s tough to defend.

Yeah, yeah, he’s good.

Speaking of Austin, what’s Duke’s interest level in you and what do you know about the program?

I know that the program is known for winning and that’s what I like to do so that right there is automatic interest. I heard Coach K is a really good coach. I see them on TV all of the time. I want to step into a good situation. I don’t want to step into some easy situation and I don’t think they’d expect it. I see them recruiting high level players all of the time. I don’t want to step into an easy situation, I want to step into a situation where I’m going to have to work. I don’t want to walk into a place where I automatically get a starting position, I want to have to work for it. I know Coach K will give me no slack. I know he won’t give me anything and I like that. 

Some guys want guaranteed early playing time.

Yeah, some guys just want to step into an easy situation, but that’s not me. I want to work for it, I don’t need any guarantees. 

And can you talk about the interest that they’ve shown in you so far?

Yeah, I mean, I’ve gotten letters from them.

From Coach Wojo?

Yeah, I’ve gotten letters from him and I’ve called them a couple of times. He’s always telling me, when you’re ready, I’m ready. So, I mean, that’s really it, really. That’s where we’re at.

 

What was your experience like trying out and ultimately winning a gold medal with USA Basketball?

USA was a different challenge because there were eleven other guys on the team that could do whatever. I mean, they’re the top eleven guys. It was great to play with guys like Jabari (Parker) and Tyus (Jones). So I had to come in the game and do other things like hustle things. But I ended up starting, that was fun. I got hurt the second game, so I didn’t get a chance to play in the championship game, but it was fun. But when I was playing, I really got along with the players.

Who did you get along with best on the team?

Probably Tyus… he was my roommate. Tyus and Kendrick (Nunn), they’re pretty funny guys. 

 

In terms of position, I put down that you could either be a three or a two, depending on how you develop. What do you feel is your best position?

I like to think of myself as a three, but I can play the two. 

Well, if you like LeBron, you gotta learn to play the three.

(laughs) Yeah, I like to play inside a lot, I like to play in the low-post, and I like to use my body for rebounds. I like to use my body against smaller defenders on the low-post. When I go against bigger defenders, I like to face-up and just shoot right over them. I like to be able to do both things and I try to work on both.

Your mother played at Jackson State. Can you talk about her influence on you with the game?

My mother, she really knows the game, so when I was growing up, I had a coach in my house so I didn’t really have to go far to ask for questions.

So that’s definitely an advantage that you had.

Yeah, definitely. She got me right from the beginning with a ball in my hand because she was a European player as well. It happened prior to the WNBA. 

In France.

Yeah, because there was no WNBA at the time. 

That’s impressive. Now, what position was she?

She was a three and a four. She was able to play inside and out. 

So, she really does know where you should be.

(laughs) Yeah, she doesn’t let me get away with anything. 

You can’t get by on her. 

No, I can’t mess around. (laughs)

 

What would you like people to know about you away from the court?

I’m really goofy. If you ask any of my teammates, I’m always laughing. I’m always making jokes. There’s really no dull moment around me. 

So, you like to keep people entertained?

(laughs) Yeah, yeah.

I heard you visited New York yesterday and I’m not sure if you visited the Hall of Fame, but if so, can  you talk about those two experiences?

We actually went all around town. We went to St. John’s for a little bit. I saw the campus and I got to play a little bit on the courts there. That was really cool. That was fun, but we only got to spend one night there. It was quick. 

I’m from NY so I was interested where you went. I’m sure Coach Lavin was happy to let you guys use their facilities. Someone was describing you as being a really good “team-player” because for certain teams, you bring defense, other teams you bring scoring, you really bring whatever is needed. Do you feel that’s a good description? 

Tonight, unfortunately but obviously, nothing was falling for me. So, I just tried to do whatever I could.

Well, you were three for ten from the field tonight, but you had fifteen rebounds and played good defense.

I feel like could play with a lot of players because I feel like I can bring it, especially with the USA team I have a different role than I do with the Oakland Soldiers.

So, you’re very comfortable with different roles, wearing different hats?

I feel like I can rebound. I’ll grab the ball when the shot’s not falling. I can get steals. I feel like I can play with great players, not-so-great players, and just high school players. 

I heard you picked 41 because you wanted to pick 5 for your mother but that number was taken this year and that you wanted to pick 5 because not only was it your mother’s number, but it also meant grace. Are you going to switch to that next year when it becomes available?

Yeah, my mom told me four plus one means grace. So, my Mom, well, she’s a minister.  I’m a Christian and so I believe in God. I believe in all the things about Christianity..the number 5 and the number 7, things like that. It’s encouraging to think that I have grace.

I hadn’t heard that before. When I was trying to do research on you, it was unusual. Thank you very much.

No problem, man. [/private]

Dakari Johnson: Jolly Giant

BDN Photo Dakari Johnson

At 6’10” and 260 pounds, Dakari Johnson can’t play in the shadow of many people, but behind St. Patrick’s star player Michael Gilchrist, he was able to have a relatively smooth and productive freshman season, incrementally improving month by month. The rising sophomore ultimately averaged nine rebounds and three blocks per game, while playing against elite-level high school competition, starting six games for USA Today’s number two high school team in the country. Johnson was named ESPN Rise’s National Freshman of the Year for his significant contributions to the national power Celtics.

His talent and height are not necessarily an unexpected blessing. His mother, Makini Campbell, is 6’5″ and played college basketball at Long Island University, while his father, Thomas Johnson is 6’10” and played for St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY.

This wasn’t Dakari’s first experience playing varsity basketball. At Sayre Middle School, he played varsity basketball in Lexington, Kentucky, where Dakari and his mother had moved for a few years. This year, the Brooklyn native achieved a 3.7 grade point average in the classroom, while his mother was hired at St. Patrick’s as an English teacher, when a position became available during the school year.

In a critical match-up against eventual National Prep champion St. Thomas More and their star center 6’11” Andre Drummond, the Brooklyn freshman stepped up his game, scoring twelve points and grabbing nine rebounds in a 73-61 win. After playing a vital role on his 26-1 Celtics team, the fifteen year-old manned the middle for a Gauchos AAU team in desperate need of an interior presence. Johnson will, however, be sidelined for the foreseeable future with a sprained ankle suffered during the LeBron James Skills Academy, where he was one of the youngest participants.

In June, the 2014 prospect competed as part of the USA Basketball’s Developmental National Team in Colorado Springs. Despite ultimately not getting selected for this year’s 16U team, Coach Showalter had very complimentary things to say about Dakari’s long-term potential and future with USA Basketball. One big decision on the immediate horizon for Johnson is whether he will return to St. Patrick’s following the departure of long-time Celtics head coach, Kevin Boyle, who left to take a similar but more financially lucrative position with Montverde Academy in Florida.

Recently, Dakari, a friendly and precocious young man, spoke briefly with Blue Devil Nation about his USA Basketball experience, Kyrie Irving, and embracing his role as a low-post big man.

Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself away from the court?
Away from the court? Oh, I’m just a funny person who likes to just hang out with my friends and just chill.

What about your year at St. Patrick’s and where are you going from here?
My year at St. Patrick’s was very good. I was the only freshman on my team.
Did you feel like a rock star with all of the attention? 
(laughs) No, I didn’t feel like a rock star, but I just had to play a role and you really feel like you develop month by month. Yeah, I think I came along at St. Pat’s. Since we played in competition, I tried to raise my level of play. I think it really got me better. 

[private]
Are you a really good student? I know your mother teaches English… Do you know Mr. Konchalski?
No, no… Oh, you mean Tom. Yeah, I know Tom.
I’m sorry. I always call him Mr. Konchalski.
(laughs)
So, are you a good student?
Yeah, I’m a very good student. I have a 3.7 average.

Are any colleges expressing interest at this point?
Oh, yeah, Syracuse, Georgetown, Kentucky, Villanova, just a lot of them. A bunch of schools.

I assume you’re wide open and in no rush to decide at this point, is that right?
Oh, yeah, I’m wide open. No rush. 

Have you taken any visits?
Oh, yeah, I went to Georgetown for Midnight Madness. I took a visit to Kentucky last year and Louisville last year. Yeah, and I took a visit to Xavier last year.

Can you touch on the fact that you actually lived in Kentucky during middle school? You went down for various reasons and you guys came back for employment and basketball reasons. 
Yeah, I lived there.
Because you’re a Brooklyn boy too..
(laughs) Yeah, I’m a Brooklyn boy. I was in Kentucky during my middle school years and I actually played Varsity and J.V. 
Wow.
(laughs)
Great competition?
(laughs) No, it wasn’t the toughest.

Who do you try to model your game after?
Andrew Bynum.
Andrew Bynum? Yeah, I could see that.
Yeah, Andrew Bynum. He’s got long arms and a big body like me. I hope to become like him one day.

How big are you right now?
I’m about 6’11” and 260.

What are you trying to do with your body?
Trying to get stronger, trying to hit the weight room, lose some fat.
Everybody has a trainer these days, do you have a trainer?
Yeah, I got a trainer his name is John.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strengths are being mentally tough and my post play. My weaknesses are my conditioning, but I’ve gotten better at that really for the past month since I’ve been training. I’m trying to take some weight off.

That’s good. In terms of position, do you view yourself as more of a four or a five?
I wouldn’t say I’m a pure five, but, if I have to play the four, I can. I’m very open to either.

Have you tried to work on your face-up game or are you more of a back-to-the-basket guy?
I’ve been trying to just work on shooting the ball. I want to be able to stay with my strength, but I want to shoot better, so I’m going to work on my face-up game, too.

Can you comment on your mother? Like you, she’s also taller than me. She’s about 6’5″, right?
(laughs) Yeah, she plays basketball. Really, she’s alright… I guess. (laughs)

Have you ever played against her?
I’ve played against her, but I think she stopped about maybe six months ago.
She’s busy with all of those English papers.
(laughs)

I know this is a touchy issue, but are you going back to St. Pat’s? 
I don’t know, I’m not sure, I don’t want to comment on that. (laughs)

Can you talk about USA Basketball? You didn’t make the team, but I read that Coach Showalter said that of all of the guys there, you had the highest potential long-term. What was it like going through that experience and what did you learn?

USA Basketball was a great experience. I enjoyed going out there and it took some time to learn what USA Basketball was all about. When I went out there, I understood what it was all about and what it would mean to make the team.

What did you guys do out there and can you touch on the bonding?
Well, mainly we had two sessions, the evening and afternoon, we did drills and had scrimmages. We ate in between and really just hung out.

I remember from a couple of years ago Kyle Anderson when he was your age, he was talking about how much of an adjustment it was dealing with the altitude being from the East Coast. He said it was so hard to breathe, he felt like he was going to pass out when he was running.
(laughs) That really didn’t affect me that much.
Well, he’s more of a guard.
Yeah, it really didn’t affect me that much.

Alright, well, what’s your relationship like with Jahlil Okafor? Do you view it as a friendly rivalry? You’re two of the best players in the class. He said you’ve known one another since third grade.
No, Jahlil is a good player and we’re very good friends. He used to play for the Arkansas Mustangs when we were younger. I’ve known him for a long time and we have a very good relationship.

I asked him about you and I figured I’d just do the same for you. Who’s the toughest player that you’ve ever gone against?
So far, probably Andre Drummond.
I was actually at that game.
Oh, yeah, that was packed. You could barely get a seat (laughs), but, yeah, he was a very good player. 

I thought you played really well that day, so did he. Do you know Kyrie? Do you have any relationship with him? And what was your reaction when he was announced the #1 draft pick?
Oh, yeah, I know Kyrie. I’ve talked to him a few times. I’m happy that he’s made it to the NBA.

Before you were talking about conditioning..what you are you doing to improve on it and what about explosion, too?
I’ve just been working out with my trainer and I stayed at his house for about two weeks and we did arms and legs.

It looks like it’s paying dividends in your shoulders.
(laughs) Oh, yeah.
Is he in New Jersey?
Oh, yeah, he’s in New Jersey. I just do a lot of weight training and a lot of leg work. 

Did you have a favorite school growing up? Not necessarily what you might like now..
In college? I liked Syracuse growing up because I liked Carmelo Anthony, my favorite NBA player. 

Now at the NBA level, what’s your favorite team?
The New York Knicks.
Finally! Thank God, I finally found one guy.
(laughs)

Everybody’s a Laker fan or whatever’s easiest at the time. Do you like to be a big and have you embraced it? There are some guys that are like 7’1″ and are sure that God intended them to be a shooting guard.
(laughs) No, I like being a big, you know, I played that role all my life, so…sometimes I’ll hit a 15 footer, but I think I need to concentrate on my low-post skills.

Mr. Konchalski, for example, thought that it was very advanced of you that, at such an early age, you recognized what your bread and butter is, so to speak. You weren’t trying to be something that you weren’t. 
Yeah, that’s not something I’m interested in.

What’s your projected size?
My projected size is 7’2.”

Wow. Do you have any hard offers yet?
Yeah, Georgetown and Xavier offered me. Those are the two that offered me.
I’m sure that there’ll be plenty.
(laughs) Yeah, I haven’t really taken any more visits yet. This summer at the beginning of August I’ll take some more visits.

And who will be on the trip with you?
Probably my mom or someone else. I’m not really sure yet. We haven’t set any dates yet, but I know I’m going.

How have you enjoyed your experience at LeBron?
So far, I’ve enjoyed it a a lot even though the last few games I’m not going to play because of my ankle. I’m going to see if I can go to a medical doctor. 

What happened? I saw you on the ground. It looked like a tower going down.
(laughs) I went to the basket and someone took a charge down low and I just fell on it.

Thanks a lot, Dakari
Oh, sure, thank you.[/private]

USA holds on to defeat Spain behind Durant

The 2010 USA Men’s World Championship Team fought through adversity,  fended off a second half attack and edged host and defending world champion Spain 86-85 on Sunday night inside the Magic Box in Madrid, Spain. Playing in a raucous stadium filled to its 10,960 capacity, the USA’s charge was led by Player of the Game Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), who posted game-highs of 25 points and 10 boards, and also had a pair of key blocks in the closing seconds.

Also in double digits were Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls), who scored 13 points, including the game’s final two points from the line; Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers) notched 12 points and nine boards; and Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets) tossed in 10 points.

“This is something I’m never going to forget … never,” said Rose.

“I got to hit them,” he recalled about what he was thinking during his game-clinching free throws. “As your legacy goes on or the way you want your legacy to finally end, this is something that some people are going to remember.”

The U.S., now 3-0 in its three exhibition games, will travel to Athens tomorrow to prepare for its final exhibition game against Greece on Aug. 25 at 7:00 p.m. local (12:00 p.m. EDT live on ESPN).

“Great crowd, two excellent teams playing their hearts out and we felt fortunate to win. We made one more play then they did and that’s how good the game was,” said USA and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “We were trying to learn about our younger players so we started a different lineup.

“Before we talk about the outside (players), Lamar Odom should be our starting center. He’s finally into shape I think to play at this level. Curry has been out so we wanted to give him a chance and we already know what Rondo and Granger can do, and Love was out. The doctor wanted to keep him out because of hitting his head and because it’s back-to-back, so that was a precaution. That was our plan tonight, just to take a better look at our team.”

Trailing since the first basket of the game, Spain took its first lead of the night, 82-80, with under two minutes to play on a Felipe Reyes layup. Durant countered to knot the score 17 seconds later and after Ricky Rubio tossed the ball away the U.S. had a shot to pull ahead again, but Odom’s 3-pointer was off the mark and Spain had the ball back.

However Reyes missed his next attempt and Odom secured the rebound. With seven seconds left on the shot clock and 32.99 seconds to play in the game, Rose nailed a driving bucket and the U.S. was back in the lead, 84-82.

Following a Spanish time out, Juan Carlos Navarro was fouled driving to the hoop. He converted on the 3-point play to give his side the lead once again with 27.82 ticks on the clock.

Rose shook off a determined defensive effort by Rubio and was fouled as he drove to the basket. Ignoring the deafening roar of the crowd, he calmly stepped to the line and swished both his attempts with 16.92 to go.

“He made two big free throws and like I told him after the game, those were really big confidence-wise for him and the rest of the team to know that we got a guy we can go to down the stretch,” said Andre Igoudala (Philadelphia 76ers).

Spain again called time, which enabled the hosts to advance the ball to half court.

“We’ve practiced a lot with the zone and we used zone on all under out of bounds which were good. Then from the timeout Jim Boeheim said let’s go orange” said Krzyzewski on what the plan was out of the final time out. “We call it orange with respect for Jim, he said he doesn’t have any buildings named after him in Syracuse so we’ll name the zone after him. I agreed with him, but it was his suggestion and the guys did a good job with it.”

After inbounding the ball, the Spaniards moved the ball around and finally Rubio found room to attempt a 3-point attempt. However, there wasn’t enoughspace as Durant partially deflected the shot. The rebound was bobbled around and Spain came up with it, but Durant was again there to block Rudy Fernandez’ 3-point attempt and the clock expired with the U.S. collecting its third victory in as many exhibition games.

“I just wanted to cover a much ground as I could and help my teammates out,” said Durant about the game’s final possession. “I saw Ricky Rubio open in the corner and I just wanted to use my length to get out there and tip the shot. I was able to get a finger on it and I had the ball and it kind of slipped out of my hand and Rubio got it back and threw it to Fernandez and I just didn’t want to jump and get a foul on a 3-point shot so I stayed down and kind of timed it pretty well and I was fortunate enough to get a block and the game was over. I just wanted to do something to help my team win.”

The USA, which opened up a 16-3 gap to start the game, held a 45-33 lead at the midway break.

Spain charged out of the locker room and in addition to hitting 6-of-7 from the line, knocked down a couple of threes and in the span of almost five minutes, to close the gap to 55-53.

The U.S. came back to life. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) scored to start the USA on 8-1 run that was capped by consecutive baskets from Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) that left the Americas holding a 63-54 lead. After a pair of Spain baskets, the Americans closed the third quarter’s final 1:05 with a 6-0 spurt to open a double-digit, 69-58, lead with 10 minutes to play.

Plagued by fouls most of the game, the U.S. picked up three quick ones in the first 1:12 of the fourth quarter. Trying to stay out of the bonus and keep Spain off the line, the USA’s defense sagged and Spain battled its way back into the game as the hosts outscored the red, white and blue 20-11 over the opening seven minutes in the fourth and then tied the game at 80-all with  2:37 to play.

The USA had a much better shooting night against Spain than Saturday night’s contest against Lithuania, hitting 48.5 percent (33-68 FGs) from the field, while holding Spain to 41.8 percent (28-67 FGs). However, the U.S., which owned the glass 39-27, sent Spain to the line for 29 attempts and the hosts converted on 24 (.828). In contrast, the American men made 14-of-18 from the line (.778).

Spain was led by Navarro’s 20 points, Marc Gasol had 17, Reyes tossed in 16 off the bench.

“It was a tough game. On their home court. We just fought through adversity and came out with a win,” said Westbrook.

“First off it was a fun game, one of those games that was a learning experience for us, coming over here and playing one of the best teams in the world,” stated Durant.  “I think we made key plays down the stretch and we also played together as a team and stuck together through tough times. So it was a good test for us.”

The 2010 USA World Championship Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University’s Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan and Toronto Raptors head mentor Jay Triano.

All four of the USA’s pre-World Championship friendlies are part of the new Global Community Cup, which will include all USA Basketball exhibition games played outside of formal international competitions.  Along with the games, the Global Community Cup features a social responsibility element that will highlight USA Basketball’s commitment to giving back to communities in the U.S. and abroad.

The official 12-man USA roster that will compete in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, which will be played Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Turkey, must be submitted to FIBA at the technical meeting that normally is held the day prior to the start of the competition.

For photo’s and additional coverage visit USABasketball.com

USA Basketball is Gold

USA Basketball has been Gold this summer. Gold as in winning the Gold Medal at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Hamburg, Germany, and at the FIBA Americas U18 tournament which was held in San Antonio, TX.

The USA U17 team went a perfect 8-0 in Hamburg wrapping up the Gold Medal, on July 11th, with a convincing 111-80 victory over Poland who finished the tournament with a 7-1 record and the Silver Medal. Canada defeated Lithuania, 83-81, in the Bronze Medal game.

USA advanced to the Gold Medal game by defeating Canada, 103-83, in the semi-finals, and Australia, 105-70, in the quarter-finals. Team USA won their eight games by an average margin of 34 points. They defeated Argentina, Lithuania, China, Egypt, and Serbia in preliminary round play.

Brad Beal, who has verbally committed to play college basketball at Florida, and James McAdoo, who has verbally committed to North Carolina, were named to the All-Tournament team. Beal was the team’s leading scorer averaging 18.25 points per game. McAdoo averaged 14.5 points and led the team in rebounding with 7.9 per game. Point guard Quinn Cook led the tournament in assists with 7.4 per game.

By winning the FIBA Americas U18 tournament in San Antonio, the USA was one of four teams to qualify to compete in next year’s U19 World Championship, which will be held in Latvia. USA U18 team won the Gold Medal with a hard fought 81-78 victory over Brazil, on June 30th, to finish the competition with a perfect 5-0 record. Quincy Miller hit a decisive 3-point shot late in the game to seal the come from behind victory for Team USA. Canada defeated Argentina, 86-83, to win the Bronze Medal.

They qualified for the championship game by defeating Canada 122-89 in the semi-finals. In the preliminary round, USA defeated the U.S. Virgin Islands, 131-63; Mexico, 114-38; and Argentina, 88-67.

Austin Rivers led the team in scoring with 20.2 points per game. Quincy Miller (14), Kyrie Irving (13.8), and Jereme Richmond (10.8) also averaged in double figures. Miller was the team’s leading rebounder with 9.2 per game, while Irving led the team in assists with 4.2 per game. Miller and Rivers are undecided on their college destination, while Richmond will play at Illinois and Irving at Duke.

US U17 rolls past Lithuania 102-66

Quinn Cook stars for the USA U-17 team - BDN Photo

Despite tipoff coming 30 minutes after 12 noon, it was early lights out for Lithuania (1-1) as the USA Men’s U17 Team (2-0) ran over, around and through Lithuania Saturday and in the process collected a very impressive 102-66 victory in preliminary round play at the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship in Hamburg, Germany.

It was the second meeting between the two squads in four days and nothing like the USA’s previous 92-79 victory over Lithuania that came in an exhibition contest held June 29 in Kaunas, Lithuania.

“We came in here with the mindset that we had played them before so we definitely knew what to expect. We came in focused as a team and all 12 guys on the team contributed,” commented 6-8 USA forward James McAdoo (Norfolk Christian H.S. / Norfolk, Va.). “We definitely all played together today. Yesterday we kind of got away from what our mindset was but we got the win, so we came in here today with good focus.”\

Balanced scoring by the Americans was underscored as all 12 players scored at least four points, the team collectively was credited with handing out 27 assists, seven players had at one assist. The U.S. shot a sizzling 56.1 percent from the field, and outrebounded Lithuania 46-36.

About the only flaw in the USA’s dominating performance Saturday was its 25 turnover, nine of which came in the last 10 minutes when the USA lead was floating between 40-50 points.

“It’s awesome,” McAdoo stated about the team’s high energy play. “I like to play up and down; I like to get up and down; I don’t like to post up as far as in the half court set. So when we’re able to get our defense cooking and were getting turnovers, we’re getting deflections, we’re getting blocked shots, that just really aids my game and you saw how that worked out today where I was able to get out on the fastbreak and get a lot of open shots and open dunks.”

Unlike the two team’s last meeting four days ago when Lithuania got out to a first quarter lead and the Americans spent the rest of the game getting back ahead and holding on to the lead, the U.S. struck quickly and with remarkable energy and precision.

Thanks to five points from Brad Beal (Chaminade College Prep H.S. / St. Louis, Mo.) and four more from McAdoo, the U.S. jumped out into the lead 11-3. With the scoreboard reading 11-6 in the USA’s favor, the Americans turned up the defensive intensity and the result was 10 consecutive points and an overall 21-7 scoring rampage over the opening quarter’s final 4:05 that left the USA fully in charge, 32-13.

At one point during the USA’s full in-your-face dominating play, Lithuania was forced into five consecutive turnovers that the U.S. converted into fastbreak points. For the afternoon, the U.S. recorded 38 points off the break.

“There were times when it seemed like they couldn’t really get into their offense, we were pressing up on them and putting a lot of ball pressure and that definitely helped,” stated McAdoo.

The USA’s energy never subsided and at halftime the U.S. lead stood at 56-31. The lead continued to balloon in the second half and the USA went on to lead by as many as 50 points before sailing in for the 102-66 victory.

McAdoo and Beal led the USA effort with 16 points each, and McAdoo added a U.S. best seven rebounds and three steals. André Drummond (St. Thomas More School / Middletown, Conn.) tallied 10 points and five boards, while Chasson Randle (Rock Island H.S. / Rock Island, Ill.) finished with 10 points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting. Quinn Cook (DeMatha H.S. / Bowie, Md.) accounted for nine points, six rebounds and game high eight assists, and Tony Wroten, Jr. (Garfield H.S. / Seattle, Wash.) contributed nine points in the win.

“Obviously we played pretty well today. Lithuania is a very good team. We had a practice game against them earlier and it was really a close game until a few minutes were left in the game. So we knew they were a good team. Our players were very well prepared mentally for this game. We started out the game with getting some turnovers and with our athletic ability and quickness; we started the game out like we wanted to,” USA U17 World Championship Team and Mid-Prairie High School (Iowa) head coach Don Showalter said. “We started off a little different with our press and I think that started the whole run for us. We have some really quick kids and when they can get their hands on balls, get deflections, that starts a run for us and I think we took them out of their offense a little but by having a full court press.”

Other Saturday results saw Argentina (1-1) handled Egypt (0-2) 98-69, while Canada (1-1) beat Australia (0-2) by a score of 76-68.

Following a day off that fittingly comes on Sunday, July 4, the USA will continue FIBA U17 World Championship preliminary play on July 5 facing China, then plays Egypt on July 6 and closes opening round play against Serbia on July 7. The top four finishing teams from each preliminary round group will advance to the July 9 medal quarterfinals, with semifinals games scheduled for July 10 and the gold and bronze medal games to be contested on July 11.

“Our focus is on China as they’re our next opponent,” said Showalter. “We know they are talented, they’re big, they’re strong, so we’re going to have to play well. Our goal is to get better every game and the teams that get better every game are the ones that are going to end up in the medal rounds.

“The nice thing is that if any of our players have a game where they’re not quite on we have players who can come in and spell them and really do well. One of the things I get asked a lot is ’how do you manage your team’s young egos, they’re all great players on their teams” and you know that’s pretty easy because they just want to win. They don’t care how it’s done, it’s not me it’s we on our team and I think they showed that today.”

Serving as assistant coaches for the 2009-10 USA Developmental National Team and 2010 USA U17 World Championship Team are Herman Harried, head coach at Lake Clifton High School (Md.), and Kevin Sutton, head coach at Montverde Academy (Fla.).