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.
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.