Our boys are over in Kaunas, Lithuania, representing the country in the FIBA 17-and-under world basketball championship. So far, they’re kicking butt. The squad is 5-0 and headed to the medal round (8:45 a.m. ET, Friday) against Canada (3-2). FIBATV.com is streaming the game, but it’s going to set you back $29.95.
USA trounced China 116-47 despite sitting Dakari Johnson and Jabari Parker (listed as DNP, injured). Guessing we’ll see those guys once the medal round tips. Parker’s missed two games; Johnson just one.
Conner Frankamp (Kansas verbal) is on fire behind the arc, shooting 8-for-16. Teammate Stephen Domingo (Georgetown commit) made 12 3s in five games. Tyus Jones is the tournament’s No. 3 assist man at 5.4 per game and owns the best assist/turnover ratio of anyone in the tournament.
USA, through pool play, dominated the tournament. Coach Don Showalter’s team won five games by an average of 40.6 points. USA averages 99.4 points a game and gives up just 58. Frankamp leads the way with 14.2 points, followed by Jahlil Okafor at 14 points a game. Four USA players average double-figures. We’re shooting it 37 percent from the 3-point line as a team. Okafor rips down 9.6 boards a game.
Speaking of Okafor, we exchanged email messages on July 4 before USA dismantled China.
What’s the strength of this team?
“The strength of the team is our depth. We're such a talented team and all 12 of are guys are so talented, we wear other teams out.”
Describe the level of competition you're facing in the tournament.
“It's much different then most teams in the U.S. These players are very smart with extremely high IQs and think the game rather then relying on their athleticism.”
Is there a player in the event not on USA's team that has given you trouble?
“No, not yet. There’s supposedly a really talented wing on Croatia who's supposed to be a lottery pick in 2014 and Kentucky [supposedly is] recruiting him hard. We've seen him play and we were all very impressed.
Note: The Croatian player Okafor is talking about is a 6-6 wing Mario Hezonja. He hung 30 points on Spain and Croatia won its pool and is 5-0. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express said Hezonja’s a freak athlete and is worth the hype.
How are college coaches keeping in contact with you? Which ones?
“They really can't right now since I'm overseas. I don't receive texts. But a few have DMed me on twitter.”
So far, what's been the most memorable moment of the experience?
“Just hanging with the guys off the court. We have so much in common and always have an amazing time. A lot of funny memories.”
Each time you take the floor with the USA jersey what does it feel like?
“You just have so much more pride and respect for your country. You see the other teams and how much love they have for their country it makes you feel the same.”