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FIBA u19 World Championship Recap: Team USA

Jeremy Lamb dunking at the FIBA u19

The FIBA under 19 World Championship took place from June 30th until July 10th in Latvia. There was an abundance of talent present and many internationally players impressed. The first part of this two part recap focuses on Team USA, which surprisingly lost in the quarter finals and finished in 5th place.

Russia upset Team USA and sent them into the consolation bracket. Team USA unfortunately lacked many of the freshmen collegiate stars that were eligible to play in the World Championship (Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, etc.) and never seemed to fully find true cohesiveness on the court.

Full team USA Roster

Continue to recaps of Jeremy Lamb, Patric Young, Joe Jackson, Meyers Leonard, and Doug McDermott

Jeremy Lamb USA, Shooting Guard, 6’5”, #9 – Connecticut (NCAA)

16.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2pg: 42.1 fg%, 29.4 3fg%, 78 ft%

Lamb was a standout in the tournament and a clear choice for the All-Star five. His numbers don’t tell the full story, as they were deflated by a rough final game (4 pts, 2/14 fg, 0/2 3fg). Lamb was very exciting to watch as he scored in various ways – three pointers, floaters, and mid-range shots – and had several highlight plays.

It was great to see that he grew more comfortable with being the man for Team USA as the tournament went on. He had one of the most impressive performances of the tournament versus Lithuania – 35 points on 8-16 fg, 5-7 3fg and 4-5 ft – as USA beat the eventual champs and Lamb hit the game-winner.

The tournament will be a very valuable experience for him. It also gives insight into the major question for the National Champion Connecticut Huskies: whether or not Jeremy Lamb would be prepared to step up given Kemba Walker’s departure. If this tournament is any indication, Lamb is confident and ready for the challenge. He will be a very different kind of star for the Huskies, though, because he actually struggles in isolation situations – scoring just .595 points per possession (27th percentile) – and prefers to play off of the ball; not like Kemba at all in this regard.

On the downside, Lamb still needs to work on consistency. He also gets to the free throw line at a very concerning rate - just 2.5 fta per game – and had four games when he didn’t attempt a single free throw. That’s dismal considering that he was the focal point of the team’s offense. Lamb often opts for floaters 6-10 feet out instead of continuing strong to the basket. It’s not a huge issue right now because he’s excellent at those runners – scoring 1.219 points per possession (95th percentile) on them at UConn, but consistent scorers learn how to get to the free throw line and produce even when they’re having off nights with their jumper.

Another noticeable weakness is… his weakness! Lamb is still a very skinny 185 pounds. Hopefully he’ll gain 10 pounds of muscle by the end of the NCAA season; maybe it will help him become more confident going to the basket looking for contact and drawing fouls.

Overall, Lamb definitely got NBA scouts’ attention and I hope he’s able to ride this wave of success all the way through a potential breakout sophomore season.

Patric Young USA, Power Forward/ Center, 6’9”, #15 – Florida (NCAA)

9.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, .8 bpg, 19 minutes: 72 fg%, 44.1 ft%

Patric Young is a beast! Click here (video) for all of the proof you need. Looking at his level of production for Team USA, it is most impressive when you think about in context with his play time. In just 19 minutes per game he averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds. It’s safe to assume that he would have averaged a double-double if he were able to get more tick.

It’s unfair that people mention Dwight Howard when they talk about the Florida big man, but you can see why the comparisons exist. Firstly, Young is a complete man-child. He’s shorter than Howard but is every bit as built (solid 245 lbs). Young has a great passion and warrior mentality in the paint; evident by his epic battles with Jonas Valanciunas. At times Valanciunas seemed frustrated with Young’s physicality, though he did win their matchups. Young’s courageousness and intensity on defense prompted Valanciunas to say, “It was most difficult to play against Patric Young.” High praise from the tournament MVP and NBA #5 pick.

In the game versus Lithuania [recap] Patric Young missed an opportunity to clinch the game for the United States with two free throws, but instead Lithuania tied it up and sent the game to overtime. Young didn’t get down about the missed free throws, instead he was the catalyst to the US’ surge in overtime as he scored five consecutive points at one point, including a ridiculous dunk over Valanciunas.

Young excels on his energy around the rim. He’s quick to explode over the top of opponents for dunks and rebounds. The great thing about Young is that he knows his limitations and focuses on rebounding, blocking shots, firing up his teammates, working hard, and dunking over people! This year the Florida Gators’ entire front court is cleared out - Chandler Parsons & Vernon Macklin drafted and Alex Tyus signed overseas. Young will have a great opportunity to produce for the Gators. He and incoming freshman star Brad Beal will be very exciting to watch.

Joe Jackson USA, Point Guard, 6’0”, #4 – Memphis (NCAA)

11.6 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3 rpg: 44.8 fg%, 31.2 3fg%, 77.8 ft%

Joe Jackson was one of the most frustrating players to watch for USA. He is clearly very talented and has a good pull-up mid range game.  He’s able to exploit his defenders’ necessity to play off a step to compensate for Jackson’s quick first step.

The main complaint with Jackson is his decision making. At times he drove to the basket aimlessly and he didn’t control the court or flow of the game as a point guard. He also seems to make very inopportune mistakes which can spark runs by the opposing team.  Jackson averaged 3.3 turnovers per game during the tournament in just 23.7 minutes of play.

Jacksons’ low point occurred in the USA-Lithuania game. Lithuania’s unbelievable comeback in the closing minutes of regulation can be partly attributed to Jackson’s decision to attack the rim and attempt an ill advised contested layup rather than run time off the clock. Ultimately Team USA won.

Jackson is a very exciting player nonetheless but it will be interesting to see if he is able to get control over his sometimes sporadic play at Memphis.

Meyers Leonard USA, Center, 7’0”, #14 – Illinois (NCAA)

6.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.6 blk, 16.3 minutes: 63.4 fg%, 71.4 ft%

Leonard was a nonfactor in the preliminary round but got better as the tournament wore on. He ended the tournament with three straight double-digit point games; however, he made his biggest impacts through his hustle and activity. He was constantly pestering his opponent for offensive and defensive rebounds, tipping the ball around, and rotating on defense to challenge shots.

It was evident that as he got more playing time his confidence increased. I think that’s one of the main obstacles in Leonard’s game.  He has good mobility, basketball instincts, skill, and is unselfish but doesn’t always play like he believes he is one of the best players on the court.
Similar to Patric Young, this highly heralded player out of high school (ESPN: #47 overall, #4 center) is poised to have a break out sophomore season. Mike Davis, Bill Cole, and Mike Tisdale have all moved on for the Illini, leaving the door wide open for Leonard to come in and make a major impact.

By no means is Leonard a player to expect in the 2012 draft, but I will be following his progression very closely at Illinois. He was able to bulk up significantly (25 lbs) in his freshman year and looks like he’ll be a major contributor for the Illini once he realizes how good he can become.

Doug McDermott USA, Small Forward, 6’7”, #11 – Creighton (NCAA)

11.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg: 50.6 fg%, 39.4 3fg%, 33.3 ft% (1/3)

He doesn’t really have much NBA potential but he was definitely a valuable member of Team USA. He has a very patient and mature game, and has obviously been very well coached…by his dad, Greg McDermott, who is coincidently the head coach for Creighton.  He is a player that probably didn’t get a lot of attention going into the tournament but it was impossible to ignore his productivity and efficiency. I definitely came away impressed.

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