Saturday March 30th
Bronze medal game, pregame, tiny locker room:
Cashmere Wright is singing a song that’s damn near older than he is. “Ghetto Superstar… that is what you are…coming from afar…reaching for the stars…” The reason I bring this up is because there’s nothing else fun or entertaining to say about the first half against Australia.
Aside from a conspicuous absence of early effort—that goes for the American support in the crowd as well—the US had a really hard time playing without Releford (knee) and Erik Murphy. Releford is the team’s best defensive player and a good finisher that makes the opposing defense work. Without his athleticism to give Australia fits on both sides of the ball, the young Americans sputtered out the gate and fell behind double digits in a hurry.
Not only did the Australians run roughshod over a struggling US team, unlike Turkey early, they buried their outside shots. (Note to any D-1 college coaches reading this: his name is Jorden Page; he’s a pg with the heart of a lion, and you should be calling him. He even looks like Stephen Curry! The same goes for Matthew Dellavedova except for the point guard looking like Stephen Curry part.)
America’s depth and toughness issues really took a hit when Lane went down with an extremely badly sprained ankle in the first half; so bad, in fact, that he had to go to the hospital. Walker and a suddenly dunk-happy Jeff Withey (Arizona)—it was like Popeye found his spinach—spearheaded an impressive mini run in the second half that saw America close within a few of the Aussies. The early lead just turned out too much to overcome.
Fact is, it was a bigger deal for the Aussies to beat America and take third than for the reverse to happen. The numbers (33% from the floor, 21 turnovers for Team USA) don’t lie. Withey’s 8-10 for 16 and 8, almost all in the second half after an earful from Hollins, and 15 from Wally Judge were the two bright spots.
Greece defeated Turkey in the final. Incredibly, a riot did not break out. For those who don’t know, Greece and Turkey have long had historical beef. The day before we were regaled with the story of a Greece-Turkey game at the Schweitzer tournament in the late 80’s during which the fans were so out of control, they broke the stands. This was a peaceful affair, won by the best team in the tournament.
Names to keep an eye out for include the aforementioned Deniz Kilicli, Enes Kanter, Nikolaos Pappas, Konstantinous Papanikolaou and Konstantinous Sloukas.
That night, after the long on-court awards ceremony for all of the tournament participants and a touching meeting that Team USA had with some very important army people, an impromptu Easter Dinner broke out thanks to the marvelous cooking of a hair-dresser named Miss Eve. Ham, collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread, etc. I’m still thinking about it.
The food was so good that Jesus Christ rose from his grave to join Team USA*.
“This mac and cheese is on point,” Jesus said, shoveling food into his mouth at a rapid pace.
“Hey, Jesus,” Cash Wright said. “You ever talk to Young Jeezy?”
“Where do you think he got his name?” Christ responded.
“Jesus, is Kansas going to win the national championship this year?” inquired Releford, soon to be a Jayhawk.
“While I can’t quite answer that, I will tell you that this will be the first time all four number one seeds make it to the Final Four.”
“What about Stephen Curry?” I asked.
“He will be fine. LeBron knows his name and will one day need a shooter. There is a plan for all of you, my children.”
“Oh, Wally,” Jesus said, as he got up to bounce to another dinner. “Don’t let the haters get you down. They’re just haters; it’s what they do.”
(* = Might not have actually happened.)