U.S. dom­i­nat­ing with star power

Team USA loaded with five-star play­ers at FIBA un­der-18 tour­na­ment

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - BILL SAWCHUK

They are fast. They are deep. They score. They de­fend. They have big men that dom­i­nate the paint.

Team USA is meet­ing and sur­pass­ing all the ex­pec­ta­tions that come with be­ing the No. 1 seed at the FIBA Un­der-18 Amer­i­cas Cham­pi­onship.

The Amer­i­cans are 3-0 and lead the tour­na­ment in scor­ing with 112.7 points per game. They have won their games against the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, Panama and Puerto Rico by an av­er­age of 45.7 points per game.

They led Panama 43-0 at the end of the first quar­ter and 70-8 at the half.

One of coach Bill Self’s pri­mary jobs is to make sure the play­ers keep their in­ten­sity as they look for­ward to a po­ten­tial bat­tle in the fi­nals with Canada, the No. 2 ranked team in the world for the un­der-18 age group.

“We are try­ing to win each pos­ses­sion,” said Self, the coach at Univer­sity of Kansas. “They have been hear­ing a lot of coach-speak, but I


“We want to play a four-guard lineup. The strength of this team is our perime­ter



coach of Team USA

thought we have main­tained our in­ten­sity fairly well.”

The coach­ing staff is well dec­o­rated. Self coached Kansas to the NCAA cham­pi­onship in 2008 and reg­u­larly con­tends for the ti­tle. The as­sis­tant coach is Danny Man­ning. He coaches Wake For­est and as a player led Kansas to the NCAA ti­tle in 1988 be­fore en­joy­ing a long ca­reer in the NBA.

Five-star re­cruits pop­u­late the ros­ter. Guards Tyrese Maxey, Quentin Grimes and Coby White are go­ing to Ken­tucky, Kansas and North Carolina re­spec­tively. For­ward Ka­maka Hepa (6-foot-9) is headed to Texas.

Cole An­thony is one the top play­ers in the coun­try and hasn’t picked a col­lege yet.

Two days be­fore the tour­na­ment started, a web­site that fol­lows Duke Univer­sity bas­ket­ball told fans not to give up; the Blue Devils are still in the run­ning for the 6-foot-2 guard from New York City.

Coaches from Vil­lanova, Ken­tucky, Duke, North Carolina, Ore­gon, Louisville, Wake For­est, Notre Dame, Pitts­burgh and Ohio State have made ap­pear­ances at St. Catharines’ Merid­ian Cen­tre hoping to get a re­cruit­ing edge.

Cole’s fa­ther, Greg An­thony, played in the NBA for 12 years, but scouts con­sider his son a bet­ter prospect. Scouts re­gard him as an elite jump shooter and ball han­dler.

He and Greg played one-onone un­til Cole started to win.

“My dad has had a huge in­flu­ence on me,” Cole said. “He has so much knowl­edge about the game that it is re­ally a bless­ing for me. I am just try­ing to get bet­ter ev­ery day.”

Team USA and Canada ap­pear on a col­li­sion course. Both teams play quar­ter-fi­nal games Thurs­day. The U.S. plays Ecuador at 6 p.m. Canada takes on Panama at 8 p.m.

The way the bracket sets up, they won’t meet un­til the fi­nals Satur­day night.

Self said his team will push the ball up the floor. He has an em­bar­rass­ment of riches at guard.

“We want to play a four-guard lineup,” Self said. “The strength of this team is our perime­ter

quick­ness. We have four big guys that can play can play, but some games we are only go­ing to play three of them. Our team is bet­ter when we can stretch and drive it.”


Quentin Grimes of the United States takes a shot at the net dur­ing their game against Puerto Rico in bas­ket­ball ac­tion dur­ing the FIBA Un­der-18 Amer­i­cas Cham­pi­onship at Merid­ian Cen­tre in St. Catharines.

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