The USA U18 basketball team captured the gold medal of the FIBA World Championship game, defeating Canada 99-84. This team was full of exciting talent, including four top ESPN top 100 prospects in the class of 2016, and 8 ESPN top 100 prospects in the class of 2017. We take a look at the top performers of the tournament.
Markelle Fultz- Best Performance:23 points 5 rebounds and 5 assists on 10-16 shooting (Canada)
The University of Washington commit was arguably the best prospect in the entire tournament. His all-around skill-set possibly has allowed him to be one of the best incoming freshmen. With a 6'4 frame, Fultz showcased his ability to attack at the rim while creating sick assist moves coupled with his blocking skills. He looks to be the most complete player at such a young age. He has an I.Q of a veteran while possessing the athleticism of a rookie. Despite playing on JV until his junior year, it is not evident that he was apart of that team. He shows how hard work pays off in the clip below.
Michael Porter Jr.- Best Performance: 20 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist on 8-12 shooting (Puerto Rico)Porter Jr. won't be in college until 2017, but the University of Washington commit had the chance of playing alongside future teammate and 2016 Washington commit in Markelle Fultz (if he decides to stay his sophomore year). Porter Jr. standing at 6'10, is the best forward in his class (4th on ESPN's top 100) and in the clip below you'll see why. Porter has an amazing release that he can virtually get off at almost any point on the floor. His ability to create space and drive up the lane and throw it down with exception force is an incredible thing. With those skills, it seems obvious that Porter will be a special player for the Huskies next year.
Kevin Huerter- Best Performance: 14 points on 5-8 from the field and 4-7 from beyond the arc (Chile)
In an early article by myself, I share his background on how he made the USA basketball team.
Huerter, ranked 49th in ESPN's top 100 beat out several high ranked 5 star players for a spot on the U-18 team in hopes of competing for a gold medal in Chile and a trip to the 2017 World Cup Championship. Huerter seems to have been playing under the radar, but his recent performance and a spot on the roster will soon open eyes. As we've recently seen with how incoming Marquette guard Markus Howard recently played at the U-17 tournament, it's more than possible that an unheralded prospect can come into a tournament in shine.
Huerter had an up and down performance during the tournament, but did a great job seeing that he beat out aplethora of 5-star prospects for the spot on the roster. One key strength of Huerter is his defensive strategy. When the clock is winding down and he is guarding, he does an excellent job of not letting his man stay comfortable and forcing them to commit shot clock violation or make an ill-advised throw to their teammate. Alongside that, Huerter's a knock-down perimeter jumper, as he had a fantastic shooting outing in a match against Chile.
Hamidou Diallo- Best Performance: 14 points and 6 rebounds on 4-7 from the field (Canada)
Diallo showed impressive glimpses throughout the tourney. The 6'5 188 Queens, NY native gave the USA team a much needed spark against Canada scoring back to back baskets which helped their lead grow at the right time. Diallo has been a great asset to the USA team, showcasing his ability to follow up shots and attacking the rim. His long, lengthy body serves good purpose for aggressive scoring around the rim, and certainly on the defensive side as well.
Some players were not played much, but nonetheless a lot of those players have impressive talent and should deliver to their respective teams in the future. Making the cut to play for the USA Basketball team is impressive enough, so they have nothing to worry about. After all, they achieved what they were supposed to do and that was bring the gold home. Mission accomplished.