Less than 24 hours after arriving in Auckland, New Zealand, the USA U19 World Championship Team got its first taste of real international basketball in a friendly scrimmage against Croatia. The USA used its superior depth and balanced scoring to record a
USA U19 Team Gains A Team Win In Exhibition Game With Croatia
June 28, 2009 - Auckland, New Zealand
Less than 24 hours after arriving in Auckland, New Zealand, the USA U19 World Championship Team got its first taste of real international basketball in a friendly scrimmage against Croatia's U19 Natrional Team. The USA used its superior depth and balanced scoring to record a 97-68 victory.
The USA squad, which does not feature any player with previous true international experience, was paced by Seth Curry's (Duke / Charlotte, N.C.) 16 points (4-7 3pt FGs), Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh / Scotch Plains, N.J.) added 15 points and Shelvin Mack (Butler / Lexington, Ky.) accounted for 12 points, six assists and four steals. Outrebounding Croatia 43-25, John Shurna (Northwestern / Glen Ellyn, Ill.) led the way on the glass with eight rebounds to go with nine points, and Howard Thompkins (Georgia / Lithonia, Ga.) added seven boards and seven points.
'It went pretty well. It took us a while to get used to the conditions and getting used to playing overseas basketball, but I think we got better as the game went along and we're making strides right now,' said Curry. 'They're (Croatia) a real big team, really physical, it's not what we're used to, but that's what we needed for a scrimmage game to get used to the conditions and the referees and stuff like that. I'd say the game definitely benefit us.'
USA head mentor Jamie Dixon likewise agreed that the scrimmage was good preparation for the United States squad.
'We had a little slow start today against Croatia, they're a good team, good size, shoot the ball pretty well. But I thought we responded, got better as the game went on and guarded some things that we haven't played against. We've only been together about 10 days, so we're learning as we go. I thought we picked up some things, got better as the game went on, and finished pretty strongly. This was a pretty good performance by a lot of our guys.'
The USA led 24-22 after the first quarter, but trailed Croatia 28-24 early in the second period after Croatia scored the quarter's first six points. The U.S. rallied and went on to outscore their opponents 21-9 to take a 45-37 lead at halftime. Expanding its lead to 67-53, the U.S. dominated the fourth quarter 30-15 to earn the 97-68 win.
'I think we're really coming together. It's a very unselfish group, we shoot the ball well, and again, I think they're taking pride in it. We know we haven't won this tournament since 1991 and so we've made that a goal for us. We understand what we're up against,' Dixon added. 'You've got the best teams in the world, the best players, this is important to other teams, they've been together longer than we have, and so we're just trying to get the point across that this is a tough tournament and we're going to play against good people.
The 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship, which being held July 1-12 in Auckland, features 16 national teams comprised of athletes 19-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1990) that qualified through their FIBA zone tournaments.
The United States, which has been placed in Group B, opens preliminary round play with a July 2 contest against Iran, followed by France on July 3, and the USA squad will celebrate the Fourth of July by taking on Egypt. The top three teams from each preliminary group will qualify for the preliminary second round, while the fourth place teams will qualify for the classification round to determine 13th to 16th places.
'I would say the thing that really stands out (about the USA team) is how different guys have impacted throughout and how it has changed constantly. I had a couple of people who have been through this who said that. Even just in practices from one day to the next, guys would change, different guys would step up and I think really that's going to be our strength. The strength of this team is we have 12 players top to bottom, that might be our advantage over some other teams.
'John Shurna today played really well today and he didn't play as much in our last scrimmage. Tyshawn Taylor played really well, so we've had different guys. Seth Curry has been our leading scorer, so has Howard Thompkins, but today I don't think they were and so we had different guys today. I think that again will be our strength and we've really stressed that as well through these 10 days, that we're going need all 12 guys to win every game and I think the guys are seeing that as well.'
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, the tournament was held every four years from 1979 " 2007. FIBA recently changed its calendar and now holds age-based world championships every other year. USA men's teams are 53-11 in the U19/Junior World Championships, capturing silver with an 8-1 record at the most recent U19 Worlds, held in Serbia in 2007.