Team USA Finishes Fifth at World University Games: Notes On Player Performances

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2011

Team USA came out of the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, with its pride intact after sporting a 7-1 overall record, but because of an untimely loss over the weekend in the quarterfinal round versus Lithuania, they will leave Asia without a medal.  The twelve-man roster comprised of some of the best returning players in the college game finished fifth in the tournament despite sporting a 28.2 PPG scoring margin over its eight opponents.  The Americans did not earn a chance to play the top two finishers — Serbia (gold) and Canada (silver) — although the team that knocked them out of contention, Lithuania, ultimately took home the bronze.  We’ve already established the weak predictive power of the WUG experience (e.g., 2009-10 NPOY Evan Turner hardly played in the 2009 WUG), but we still thought it would be worth a quick look to see which players rose to the top and which did not during the last two weeks of action.

Trevor Mbakwe Was USA's Best Interior Player

Some of our thoughts on player performances:

The All-American Backcourt Was Solid, If Not Spectacular.  Simply glancing at the roster going into the World University Games, the two names that immediately jumped out as the best players were in the backcourt — Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs and Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins.  Both players will be on the short list next season as NPOY types who should also land on several of the major All-American teams.  In China, they both played the most minutes and shot the ball considerably more than the rest of their teammates.  Jenkins alone attempted 57 threes, more shots than anyone but Gibbs (73) on the entire team.  They both made enough shots to keep defenses honest (Gibbs: 46.6%; Jenkins: 42.4%), and were automatic (90%+) from the line, but on a team sorely lacking in the point guard department, neither player truly stepped up and separated himself in that manner (only 28 assists between them, one for every combined 12 minutes they were on the floor).  In the loss against Lithuania, the two guards combined to shoot 4-13 from behind the arc and dished out only one assist (versus 5 TOs).  Clearly this team could have used a better floor leader.

Trevor Mbakwe Was a Monster.  If we had to pick one player who came out of the WUG experience with the most hype for the upcoming season, it has to be Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe.  In just under 20 minutes per contest, Mbakwe averaged a near-dub-dub of 11.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG (or, 23/19 per 40 minutes!).  What’s more impressive is that international players simply could not handle his quick feet balanced by a bulky frame, bullying his way to the foul line 61 times, or 7.6 times per game.  He only was able to convert 57.4% of those attempts, but his 60.9% field goal percentage on the interior more than made up for it.  Mbakwe averaged a double-double in the Big Ten last year, but his maturity and continued improvement may have him on target for a DeJuan Blair type of senior season in 2011-12.

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World University Games Featuring Many Returning Stars Tips Off Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2011

The second major international basketball event of the summer involving collegians is set to tip off on Saturday, and Team USA appears that it will take a heavily perimeter-oriented team into the World University Games in Shenzhen, China.  Of the twelve-man roster of mostly rising juniors and seniors, the Yanks appear to be at a serious size disadvantage with only Greg Mangano (Yale) standing at 6’10” and the beefy but 6’8″-ish forwards Tim Abromaitis (Notre Dame), Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota), JaMychal Green (Alabama) and Draymond Green (Michigan State) likely to be giving up several inches against many of their opponents.

As discussed when the tryout roster was released in June, the WUG hasn’t been kind to Team USA over the last decade of competition.  Only the 2005 team featuring Duke’s Shelden Williams brought home the gold medal, and even a 2009 team that had the pending NPOY Evan Turner on its squad could only merit a bronze.  Apologies to Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh) and Abromaitis, but it’s unlikely there’s a 2011-12 NPOY hiding on this roster, which means that Matt Painter‘s team will need to take advantage of his cadre of three-point bombers that he has at his disposal.  Gibbs, Abromaitis, Marcus Denmon (Missouri), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Darius Miller (Kentucky), and Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara) all made better than 40% from distance last season.

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2011 World University Finalists – Will the Next NPOY Be Buried on the Bench Again?

Posted by rtmsf on June 8th, 2011

As summer heats up, the various Team USA basketball rosters also start rounding into shape.  One of the better such international events that includes collegians, the World University Games, is scheduled to occur from August 13-23 in Shenzhen, China.  As such, the training camp roster of 22 current college players was released on Wednesday with a goal of cutting the group to a final 12 in late July.  The remaining dozen will spend early August practicing as a team before traveling overseas to represent the United States in an event that hasn’t been kind to the Yanks in the last decade.  Perhaps as a result of increasingly fewer talented players still in college or representative of the world catching up to the USA in basketball, this team has only finished first or second once in its last four outings — the 2005 team led by Shelden Williams (Duke) went 8-0 on its way to collecting gold in Turkey.  Two years ago, the 2009 team went 7-1 with its sole blemish a one-point semifinal defeat to Russia to bring home the bronze.  This year’s team will have its work cut out for it in an increasingly competitive international landscape.  Here’s the training camp roster:   

It’s a guard-heavy group, as Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs, Xavier’s Tu Holloway, Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor all have All-America potential in 2011-12.  This isn’t surprising, as many of the better big men in the game have either opted out of international basketball this summer (Kentucky’s Terrence Jones; Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger), or they’re moving on to NBA riches (Arizona’s Derrick Williams; Georgia’s Trey Thompkins; Kansas’ Morris Twins; Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson).  It’s notable that Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine (2010), Northwestern’s John Shurna (2010, 2009), Kentucky’s Darius Miller (2009), Gibbs (2009), and Alabama’s JaMychal Green (2008) have all had previous international experience, which would presumably give each a leg up to make Jim Boeheim’s team this summer. 

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Max Zhang Takes His Talents To Shanghai

Posted by nvr1983 on October 30th, 2010

Although October would usually be preposterously early for a player to leave school to turn pro we have our first case of the year with Max Zhang, a junior center at California, who has decided to turn pro after accepting an offer from the Shanghai Sharks (aka Yao Ming‘s team) of the Chinese Basketball Association. The 7’2″ center, the tallest player in Cal history, only produced modest numbers (3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game) last year, but was expected to play an increased role as his game matured after another summer training with the Chinese national team.

Zhang was expected to miss some of the Bears’ early-season action while he played for the Chinese national team in the Asian Games in November. With a more developed game Zhang could have provided Mike Montgomery with some quality minutes in the Pac-10 that has relatively few quality big men (even by today’s standards). Instead, those minutes will likely go to Bak Bak, Richard Solomon, or Robert Thurman, all of whom have even less experience at the college level than Zhang. Still despite all of his potential size, Zhang will be most remembered by Cal fans as somewhat of a novelty item (see below) who helped galvanize the crowd during his sparse minutes on the floor.

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Team USA Select Team Chosen: Get to Know Them

Posted by rtmsf on August 4th, 2010

This news almost slipped past us, but that’s why we wear those specially-made stick-em gloves everywhere we go.  You know the ones.  Anyway, with the US men’s national team preparing for the 2010 World Championships later this month in Turkey, players like Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Durant need someone to scrimmage against.  That’s where the collegians come in.  On Monday, USA Basketball selected ten of the best rising juniors and seniors from the collegiate ranks to provide competition for the NBA stars in a series of practice games to be played next week.  The final list is below:

2010 USA Basketball Select Team – New York
JaJuan Johnson F 6-10 216 2011 Purdue / Indianapolis, Ind.
Jon Leuer C 6-10 230 2011 Wisconsin / Orono, Minn.
Shelvin Mack G 6-3 215 2012 Butler / Lexington, Kent.
Kyle Singler F 6-8 230 2011 Duke / Medford, Ore.
Chris Singleton F 6-9 227 2012 Florida State / Canton, Ga.
Nolan Smith G 6-2 185 2011 Duke / Upper Marlboro, Mary.
Howard Thompkins F 6-10 247 2012 Georgia / Lithonia, Ga.
Mike Tisdale C 7-1 235 2011 Illinois / Riverton, Ill.
Kemba Walker G 6-1 172 2012 Connecticut / Bronx, N.Y.
Chris Wright F 6-8 226 2012 Dayton / Trotwood, OH
Head Coach: Jay Wright, Villanova

The original group of twenty candidates was whittled in half with the above selections, and the remainder gives a fair representation of some of the strength of college basketball next season.  Two Dookies (Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith) and three Big Ten players (Jon Leuer, JaJuan Johnson and Mike Tisdale) lead the way, but the list also shows just how much these two classes have been raided by the NBA Draft.  In fact, three of the players on the national team roster — Kevin Love, Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon — would have been seniors in the Class of 2011 had they remained in school.

Admit It: You Wouldn't Be Able To Pick Leuer Out of a Lineup

Still, there are several players on the Select Team who may be poised to break out in a big way next season.  Johnson, Mack, Walker, Singler, Smith and Wright are known commodities, but few people outside of the Big Ten know who Jon Leuer plays for, much less that he dropped 15/6 in a very productive season at Wisconsin last year.  Or that Georgia’s Trey Thompkins (with his 18/8 averages) is the only all-SEC first teamer who will return in that league next season.  What about the Illini’s Mike Tisdale, a true seven-footer who dropped 12/6 last year while leading  the Big Ten in field goal percentage at 59%?  Or FSU’s Chris Singleton, who effectively uses his long, wiry frame to shut down just about everyone he guards in the ACC?

We’d love to get our hands on some of the footage of next week’s scrimmages, but regardless of that, the names above are without question several of the upperclassmen that you should either re-acquaint yourselves with or get to know.  You’ll be hearing from them a lot more this coming year.

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Memphis Recruit Latavious Williams Bolts Overseas

Posted by zhayes9 on July 22nd, 2009

First it was Brandon Jennings, then heralded class of 2011 recruit Jeremy Tyler, and now the #17 overall player from the class of 2009 – Latavious Williams.  Therein completes the list of talented individuals that have opted to play overseas in the last year rather than pursue a playing career in college. While Jennings cannot necessarily be blamed for his decision to play in Italy due to a failure to be cleared academically to play for Arizona this past season, the decisions by Tyler (a high school junior at the time of his decision) and Williams leave us scratching our heads.

Sure, Tyler has the potential to be an impact basketball player. He’s 6’11, loaded with upside and will make plenty of money before he would have even received his diploma. But playing overseas, just as Jennings discovered, is much more difficult than anticipated by a confident 17-year old who has never faced such competition in his life.  The odds are that we never hear from Jeremy Tyler again.  As for Williams, the Memphis recruit was reportedly 50/50 to be cleared to play this season for new coach Josh Pastner and the Tigers. This is a different situation than Jennings, a player who entered the final year of high school as the top-ranked player in the nation, who struggled mightily in Italy. Williams is certainly talented, but nowhere near as talented as Jennings, yet reportedly Williams had Jennings in mind when he made his decision.

“It was a difficult decision,” Williams said in his press release. “But after consulting with a number of people, and taking my family situation into consideration, playing overseas is the best move for me.”  According to Williams’ consultant Trey Godfrey, Williams made his decision with money in mind: “He made the decision when taking into account his family situation,” said Godfrey, “He wants to put himself in a situation where he can help out and he saw this as a good opportunity.”  He had been considering the move overseas even during the recruiting process with Memphis and other schools.  China, of all places, is one possible destination for Williams.

The impact on Memphis is glaring. Williams was rumored to be a potential starter for the Tigers due to the departure of both Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart from the frontcourt. Otherwise, Angel Garcia, Pierre Henderson-Niles and Miami JC transfer Will Coleman will need to lead the way inside. The strength of the Tigers should remain in the backcourt with Duke transfer Elliot Williams, three-point threat Doneal Mack, point guard Willie Kemp and the emerging Roburt Sallie and Wesley Witherspoon.

Josh Pastner Better Get Back on the Phones (photo credit: Arizona Star)

Josh Pastner Better Get Back on the Phones (photo credit: Arizona Star)

As for the impact on Williams, it could be tragic. While he could certainly prove us wrong, it’s hard to see Williams succeeding overseas playing in that type of competition. He’s not a supreme talent like Jennings who can struggle and still maintain his status as a NBA lottery pick due to upside and potential. He could be severely exposed overseas and barely end up a second-round pick in the league, if he’s fortunate.  Due to the complicated eligibility process imposed by the NCAA and the allure of bringing in early cash outside of school, look for this troubling trend to continue as long as only one year of college is required prior to the NBA.

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Coach K to Coach Team USA in the 2012 Olympics

Posted by nvr1983 on July 21st, 2009

We have already laid out our thoughts on the possibility of this occurring earlier, but it’s worth bringing up again because USA Basketball made it official today that Mike Krzyzewski was returning to lead Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London. For as much hate as he gets as the coach of Duke, we have to say that he has done a great job of rebuilding USA Basketball with Jerry Colangelo although that it can be argued that his best attribute was that he didn’t bench his best player (see George Karl in 2002) or select a squad that was horribly put together/too young and act like an insufferable jerk while coach that team (see Larry Brown in 2004). Perhaps the biggest impact Coach K’s return will have is convincing the team’s stars (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade) to return for another run at the gold medal. Team USA version 2012 could potentially field a team that is legitimately as dominant as The Dream Team (none of this ridiculous “Redeem Team” junk from this year) as the  2008 team’s core players will be entering their primes with the exception of Kobe. Here’s a quick look at a potential roster for London:

PG = Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, and Derrick Rose

SG =  Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and Brandon Roy

SF = LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant

PF/C = Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, and Chris Bosh

Obviously that’s more people than could suit up, but they would probably lose at least one guy to age/injuries (candidates: Kobe, Wade, and Jefferson) or might drop one of the potential PGs (likely Rondo or Williams). Griffin is also the other wild-card here since we’re forecasting his success in the NBA, but Team USA’s weakness is inside and it seems like he would be perfect in the international setting with the up-tempo pace that Team USA would likely employ even if Malcolm Gladwell thinks that style of play is a recipe for an upset. In any case, this team would be enormous favorites in London and would highlight a talent–recruiting–that was once considered Coach K’s greatest asset back when he used to simply coach Duke.

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Lords of the Hoops: USA U19s Win Gold In Worlds

Posted by jstevrtc on July 12th, 2009

Get lost, Frodo and company.  Liv Tyler, you can stay.  But recognize, today, it’s the USA U19s who are the toast of New Zealand.

In an event we’ve had a fun time following this summer at RTC, the USA Under-19 squad took the gold medal at the Under-19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand over the weekend, going a perfect 9-0 for the tournament.  Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas) led the Americans with 18p/2r/6a/5s in the finals against the U19s from Greece, with UTEP’s Arnett Moultrie adding 10p/9r/2a.  The USA placed two players on the All-Tournament Team (which, in New Zealand, is apparently called the “All-Star Five”), namely Taylor, and Butler’s Gordon Hayward.  The title is the Americans’ first in this competition since 1991.  Incidentally, if you’d like another name to watch out for (we had previously told you about Rutgers’ Mike Rosario who played for the Puerto Rico U19s and the 54 he plopped on last-place France), don’t forget Croatia’s Mario Delas.  He was named the tournament’s MVP and is currently set to go 18th on’s 2011 mock draft.

Sing it proud, guys.  (Credit:

Sing it proud, guys. (Credit:

The final against Greece was indicative of the entire tournament for the US squad in that it was a true team effort.  In the final, all but one player on the team played at least 11 minutes and there were seven players who contributed at least seven points.  Jamie Dixon (Pitt), Matt Painter (Purdue) and Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) crafted a US team with players suited for those crazy, confounded international rules, not to mention one that produced an extremely balanced attack, and they brought home the hardware.

Of course, the big question is what each individual player will take from this experience — besides a sweet gold medal which looks a little like a NYC subway MetroCard tied to a lanyard, and what I’m sure are some lovely photos of the NZ countryside — and how he’ll apply it to the rest of his college career.  Travel of this nature can only help to broaden a young man’s mind; and we all know that everyone wants to beat the tar out of the United States whenever they get the chance and that everyone guns for us.  That’s a sentiment some guys on this team (like Taylor from Kansas, Darius Miller from Kentucky, eventually Seth Curry from Duke) might be used to, and while that environment provides invaluable experience for everyone involved, it’s especially good for players from smaller programs.  Doesn’t look like Moultrie or Hayward had a problem with it, eh?  It’ll also be interesting to see if Southern Illinois makes a jump forward this year with Lowery having spent quality time around two of the best in the business in Dixon and Painter.  In any event, great work all around, gentlemen!  Enjoy showin’ off the new bling.

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Budding Star in New Zealand: Rutgers’ Mike Rosario

Posted by rtmsf on July 6th, 2009

We’ve been keeping a lazy eye on Team USA’s performance at the Under-19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand, this week, and so far, so good.  It’s a nice opportunity to see how some of our better young collegians perform at the international level, in addition to allowing us to evaluate some names to keep an eye on next season.  Several of Team USA’s players – Howard Thompkins from Georgia, Ashton Gibbs from Pitt, Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack from Butler, Seth Curry from Duke, Tyshawn Taylor from Kansas – are known commodities for the average RTC reader, but they haven’t yet gotten the national recognition they’ll receive as they take greater roles on their teams next season (except Curry, of course, who will sit out his transfer year at Duke). 
Learn These Names and Faces for 2009-10

Learn These Names and Faces for 2009-10

As it stands, the Under-19 lads are 4-0 with blowout wins over Iran, France, Egypt and Greece thus far.  Georgia’s 6’9 Howard Thompkins has been a beast on the blocks, averaging 13/5 on 64% shooting in just under 15 mpg, including a 22-pt outburst against the Greeks.  Butler’s Hayward has also been impressive, contributing 10/5 with a well-rounded number of assists, steals and blocks while he’s been on the floor.  In the backcourt, Gibbs, Curry and Mack have logged the most minutes, each adding timely scoring and floor leadership to the team despite not shooting the ball all that well (Gibbs excluded).  The Americans have yet to be tested, and will likely have to wait until its Wednesday game against Lithuania to face some serious competition. 

mike rosario 2

Tuesday, however, presents an interesting storyline in that Team USA will face Puerto Rico and the hottest player in the tournament, Rutgers guard and rising sophomore Mike Rosario.  Rosario, a gifted scorer who averaged 16 ppg in college last season, exploded for 54 points in his most recent game against France, scoring 17 in the final quarter as he led his team to a come-from-behind victory, 90-89.  He’s leading the tournament with a 31.8 ppg scoring average, and is shooting a lights-0ut 51% from the field.  It will be interesting to see how Team USA defends him, and whether Rosario will be able to get the same looks he’s gotten throughout this tournament.  His success in New Zealand comes on the heels of a successful trip to France where Puerto Rico finished second in the World Juniors Tournament there and Rosario was named to the all-tournament team.  At Rutgers, Rosario tended to have a gunner’s mentality last season, often shooting his team out of Big East games as quickly as into them, but if his summer shooting percentages are any indication of improved shot selection, head coach Fred Hill has a budding star on his hands in Piscataway. 

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PAN shAM Team Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2007

As we mentioned yesterday, Team USA’s Pan Am squad got off the plane in Rio and promptly found itself down 0-2 with losses to Uruguay and Panama, which effectively ended any chance for a medal at the tournament. Let’s say that again – Uruguay… and… Panama. If you thought losing to Serbia was bad… Uruguay? This small nation of 3.3M people stuck somewhere in South America between Brazil and Argentina is best known in hoops circles for putting only one player in its history, Ernesto Batista (Atlanta Hawks), into the NBA. As for losing to Panama, what else can be said? They’re known for a corrupt former dictator and an important canal – not exactly backdoor cuts and alley-oops.


This is All We Care to Know About Uruguay

At least Team USA rallied to win their next three games vs. Argentina, the US Virgin Islands and Panama (revenge is ours, Noriega!) to take 5th place at the tournament. (FYI – Brazil was the champion.) The more things change, the more they stay the same… Sigh… Doug Gottlieb writes today that “we stink” when it comes to international basketball, and he’s absolutely, positively, most definitely and completely right on that count:

We are Team USA, and we can not win the gold in any competition. The Pan Am team has not won gold since 1983. The Under-19 team has not won gold since 1991. The men’s national team has not won the world championship since 1994. The last Olympics gold came in 2000. We are the standard bearers for hoops across the globe, but in comparing our own image of how good we are to our overall performance, we stink.

He blames our international woes on the different styles of play and officiating, and no doubt that explains some of it. But from the non-player side of things, we still believe that our AAU-bred emphasis on 1-on-1 play over basic fundamentals such as passing, shooting and help defense is a more significant factor. When we were winning every international competition 20+ years ago, we were still more athletic than everyone else – that part hasn’t changed. What has changed is that the world has gotten significantly better (obviously), but more importantly, the US players have not. More athletic – definitely. More talented at one-and-one play – assuredly. More talented at team basketball – not even close. As Gottlieb suggests and we agree, this problem isn’t going away.

Doug Gottlieb

Gottlieb is a Doppelganger for an Intl. Hoopster

With that tirade over, we wanted to take a moment to look at the stats from the players on this Pan Am team to get some idea of whether any might have breakout seasons in college next year.

Pan Am Stats 3

According to the numbers and coach Jay Wright:

  • DJ White (Indiana) was the class of this team, nearly averaging a dub-dub, shooting 59% and leading the team in steals in only 24 minutes per game. If Eric Gordon is worth half of his hype next year, IU could really turn some heads in the Big Ten and nationally.
  • Wright slurped Roy Hibbert (Georgetown) for his mobility, but we were a little surprised he only managed eight blocks in five games.
  • And what the hell happened to Scottie Reynolds (Villanova)? We could be looking at a second coming of the Human Cannon (aka Dion Glover) here – 21% (8-37 FG; 4-19 3FG) shooting and a boatload of turnovers to boot. Memo to Reynolds – you had a nice freshman year, but just b/c the coach of your school coaches the team does not mean you have the green light on every possession.
  • Speaking of shooting, Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.) and Shan Foster (Vanderbilt) both shot poorly in the tournament, which is unsurprising considering neither is a pure shooter.
  • A pair of Pac-10 players, Derrick Low (Washington St.) and Maarty Leunen (Oregon) seemed to act as solid versatile “glue guys” that are so important for any team, according to Wright.
  • Joey Dorsey (Memphis) made a name for himself when he called out a Uruguayan center named Gregorio Odento and was summarily dunked on (or maybe we’re getting that confused with something else).
  • Guards Wayne Ellington (UNC) and Eric Maynor (VCU) both got hurt early, so we never really got to see what they could do.

DJ White

DJ White Ponders His Senior Year

All in all, it sounds like another uninspiring performance from Team USA. We’re definitely going to be keeping a closer eye on DJ White this upcoming season, though.

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