Nineteen thoughts from 2011's FIBA U19 World Championships (Cont.)
6. Moving on to the U.S. shooting guards/wings:
Jeremy Lamb, UConn (27.6 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 18 steals): Without question the go-to scorer of this team and a potential All-American in 2011-12. He almost single-handedly carried them back into the Russia game, and hit the winning bucket against Australia (although he described his 2-of-14 performance in that contest as "terrible"). His massive wingspan helped him lead the team in steals and deflections, but he'll need to be a more consistently hard-nosed defender to be one of the best all-around players in college next season.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan (20.2 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 16 assists/10 turnovers): He was on a phenomenal run to close the season for the Wolverines, but had trouble getting into a shooting groove on this trip, making just 10 of 37 three-point attempts. It wasn't until the final game against Australia that he really broke out, scoring 21 points, hitting a trio of threes, and playing tough D against Emus' star Hugh Greenwood on the victory-clinching possession.
James Bell, Villanova (16.1 mpg, 3.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg): Earned his way into the starting lineup for all nine games due to Hewitt's belief that Bell was the best on-ball defender on the roster. The U.S. failure to put Bell on Russian star Dmitry Kulagin -- who lit them up for 14 first-quarter points -- may have doomed them, though.
Anthony Brown, Stanford (11.4 mpg, 3.6 ppg): Didn't appear in four games and played the fewest overall minutes (57) of anyone on the roster, so I have to grade him out as an incomplete. I just didn't see enough of him on the floor.
7. And the U.S. forwards/centers:
Doug McDermott, Creighton (26.4 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg): Hewitt called him "one of the most consistently good" players on the roster, and I'd have to agree. McDermott was the team's third-leading scorer, and only committed three turnovers the entire tournament while playing big minutes. He should be one of the Missouri Valley's best players next season if this is any indication.
Patric Young, Florida (19.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 6.8 rpg): Connected on 72.0 percent of his field-goal attempts, because most of them were dunks, and put together a breathtaking highlight reel. He needs to be a high-energy guy in every game, though, not just the big-time matchups; while he was great against Lithuania, he missed a key opportunity to dominate a weak Russian front line.
Meyers Leonard, Illinois (16.3 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg): Apparently he struggled early in the tournament, but while I was present -- and especially in the U.S.' final three games -- he was the best big man on the floor, hustling for blocks, rebounds and buckets in transition. If he can bring that energy to Illinois for 20-plus minutes a game next season, he'll be one of the breakout players in the Big Ten.
Tony Mitchell, North Texas (15.9 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg): Totally unrefined due to missing his entire freshman season as an academic non-qualifier, the former Missouri commit still put up impressive numbers, posting the second-highest per-minute efficiency rating in the tournament and a team-high 16 blocks. He doesn't have a great feel for the game or the team concept yet, though; that should come as he gets experience with the Mean Green.
Khyle Marshall, Butler (13.3 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg): He proved to be an excellent offensive rebounder in the NCAA tournament, and true to form in Riga, he had more offensive boards (14) than defensive (13). He's a more valuable player in the Bulldogs' team-oriented setting than in a situation like this one, where the U.S. offense often devolved into AAU-like freelancing. Impressively, he stayed behind at the gym to watch every Australia game in Riga, because he wanted to support future Butler teammate Jackson Aldridge, the Emus' starting point guard.
8. Cool move by Creighton coach Greg McDermott to scrap his first-week recruiting plans and be in the stands -- "strictly as a dad" -- to support Doug for the entire time in Riga. The U.S. rooting section, to my knowledge, consisted of Greg; his oldest son, Nick; and Anthony Brown's father, Quentin. This was understandable, considering that the team wasn't finalized until June 20, making plane tickets to Riga insanely expensive. Greg only made up his mind after he dropped by the training camp in Colorado Springs. "There's something about watching your son run around with a USA jersey on," he said, "that makes you think as a father you might want to take part in this experience." He was going to fly directly to the Peach Jam after the U19s ended, and get out on the normal AAU trail.
9. The Australian team, in contrast, had a horde of parents in the stands wearing custom-made kangaroo shirts commemorating the trip -- and a whole crew of dads were beating drums and cowbells in the front row. (See the photo below.) They packed the cowbells in their bags, but had to rent the big drums from a music store in Riga; it was apparently their first order of business upon arriving in town.
10. Seeing the intensity of the Lithuanian fans was one of the highlights of the trip. The most legendary -- and well-bearded -- Lietuva fan, "Sekla," is so hardcore that he was once arrested for protecting the Lithuanian flag in a riot with Spanish police before a 2007 international game. He's on the left in the photo below. On the right is a Lithuanian fan who had some inexplicable possessions: a two-liter bottle filled with some murky liquid, and an inflatable sex doll that he'd dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. I doubt you could get either into an American arena.
11. Beyond McDermott and the U.S. staff, which consisted of Hewitt, Randy Bennett of St. Mary's and Cliff Warren of Jacksonville, I saw five college coaches in the gym. Boise State assistant John Rillie, a former Australian pro, was there tracking two Broncos commits, Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic, and other Aussie recruits. Butler assistant Terry Johnson stopped by for a day to check in on Aldridge. Dayton assistant Allen Griffin was following the Canadian team closely, in particular Dyshawn Pierre, and Utah assistant Andy Hill was checking on the Polish team, among others. Duquesne's Ron Everhart dropped in on the final two days after working a Latvian coaching clinic next door.
12. I did a breakdown of as many international-to-college prospects as I could find at the tournament, which ran on Thursday. The more games I saw, the more confident I am that the best of the bunch will be Australia's Hugh Greenwood, who's headed to New Mexico in the fall. He's the captain of the Australian Institute of Sport team, and a killer shooting guard who lit up the U.S. for 26 points in the fifth-place game. He made the all-tourney first team (as did Lamb and Valanciunas) and has the makings of an All-Mountain West player within a few years.
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