USA Men’s U17 World Championship Team Overcomes Slow Start For 89-64 Victory Over Australia
-- Jahlil Okafor Named Tournament MVP After Second Straight Double-Double --
June 25, 2012 • Las Palmas, Canary Islands
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The 2012 USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Championship Team (2-0) fell behind early, but recovered quickly to earn a 89-64 victory over Australia (1-1) and the Gran Canaria U17 International Invitational title. Played Monday night in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S. / Chicago, Ill.) led the way with 19 points and was named the MVP of the two-day tournament after averaging a double-double of 22.5 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. In tonight’s consolation contest host Spain (1-1) defeated Latvia (0-2) 87-54.
“I was surprised,” said Okafor after receiving the MVP trophy. “I didn’t know they were going to do an MVP. I thought if it wasn’t me, it would be Tyus (Jones), because he controls the team. He controls the tempo. I think he’s the person who deserves it.”
The U.S. squad travels tomorrow to Lithuania, where it will open 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship play against Australia on June 29 (8:30 a.m. EDT).
In addition to Okafor, Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei H.S. / Fullerton, Calif.) contributed 15 points, while Stephen Domingo (Saint Ignatius Prep / San Francisco, Calif.) and Kendrick Nunn (Simeon Career Academy / Chicago, Ill.) chipped in 10 points apiece. Dakari Johnson (Montverde Academy, Fla. / Brooklyn, N.Y.) grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go with six points and Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S. / Apple Valley, Minn.) dished out a game-best five assists and scored eight points.
“Australia really came out hot,” said Don Showalter, USA and Iowa City High School head coach. “They played really well. We were fortunate to be up by two at the end of the first quarter. There are some things that we need to work on to get better and starting out with more intensity is one of them.
“Our second quarter defense was really good. We brought guys like Stanley (Johnson) and Justise Winslow (St. John’s School / Houston, Texas) off the bench. When you bring in those two, it really helps us with the defensive intensity level. I thought that when Stanley (Johnson) came in, he really changed the complexion of the game. And then Jahlil (Okafor) was voted the MVP of the tournament and I thought he really played well offensively and defensively.”
Australia came out firing on all cylinders and jumped out to an early 14-4 lead in the first 2:42 of the contest.
Showalter called for timeout to regroup and his team responded.
“We have a tendency to start off flat,” said Stanley Johnson. “We started off flat again in this game. Coach called a timeout really quick, told us what to do and we got after it in the second quarter. We knew we had it in us. It was just the fact that we had to turn it on. Coach was really adamant about us turning it on and we responded to him really well.”
Nunn swished in a 3-pointer at 6:55, but Australia countered with two more quick buckets and owned its largest lead of the game, 18-7, with 6:02 to play in the first quarter. However, the Americans came to life and powered by seven points from Okafor, outscored Australia 19-6 over the remainder of the period to pull in front for good. In fact, it was a go-ahead Nunn 3-pointer that sailed in with about four seconds to go in the stanza that gave the U.S. a lead it would never relinquish.
Opening the second quarter on a 9-0 tear during which Johnathan Williams (Southwind H.S. / Memphis, Tenn.) scored all six of his points on the night, the USA distanced itself by double digits, 35-24, at 7:53. Australia’s coach called a quick timeout and his team responded with a 6-0 run that closed the gap to five points, 35-30, with 6:17 to play before the half. However, that was as close as the Aussies would get through the remainder of the contest. Nunn scored inside with a second remaining before halftime to up the USA’s lead to 47-38 at the break.
“The communication picked up (in the second quarter),” said Winslow. “From there, the bench really helped us out. Once the bench got in we really picked up the intensity, the scrappiness on defense, going after loose balls and stuff like that.”
The USA picked up where it left off at the break and outscored Australia 29-17 in the third quarter and 13-9 in the fourth for the eventual victory.
Dante Exum was Australia’s leading scorer with 15 points.
Due mainly to its intense pressure defense, the U.S. was whistled for a total of 26 fouls, with Nunn, Okafor and Winslow finishing the game with four apiece. That helped Australia stick around as the team from Down Under made 32 trips to the line, converting on 20 of them (62.5 percent).
The USA made 48.1 percent (39-81 FGs) of its shots from the field, while Australia hit 36.5 percent (19-52 FGs). For the second game in a row the Americans won the rebounding battle, this time by a 50-29 margin.
The U.S. squad used this mini-tournament in order to prepare to defend the USA’s FIBA U17 World Championship title. The 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship is being held June 29 – July 8 in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Joel Berry (Lake Highland Prep School / Apopka, Fla.) and Jabari Parker (Simeon Career Academy / Chicago, Ill.) did not play again tonight due to injuries sustained during training camp in Colorado Springs. Berry is recovering from a concussion and is listed as day-to-day, while Parker injured his left toe and is sitting out the two games in the Canary Islands as a precautionary measure.
Opening 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship play on June 29 against Australia, the U.S. will face the Czech Republic on June 30, Egypt on July 1 and France on July 3 before closing preliminary play against China on July 4. The top four finishing teams from each group will advance to the medal round with the quarterfinals staged on July 6, the semifinals on July 7 and the finals on July 8.
The inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship for Men was held in 2010. The USA captured gold with a perfect 8-0 record and former University of Florida standout Brad Beal was tabbed MVP of the tournament. The event is held every other year (2012, 2014, etc.). The USA qualified for this event by winning the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.