by Matt Caputo

CHAMPIONSHIP: USA TWO 117 / USA ONE 104

The Nike Global Challenge came to a close in Hillsboro, Oregon a success. Aside highlighting several domestic studs and sleepers, the Global Challenge exposed young players from several different counties to different styles of basketball and ultimately a diverse grouping of cultures. It was a great example of how basketball had a language all of it’s own.

Although FMP Serbia shook up the show early by knocking off a talented USA Three team including John Wall, the championship team featured two teams from the host country. Avery Bradley of Seattle put on a hell of a show playing in relatively his own backyard and his 25 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists 3 steals accounted for most of the games highlights.

USA One in red leaned on Demarcus cousins, Alex Oriakhi, Phil Pressey and Harrison Barnes, but weren’t enough to match USA Two players Avery Bradley, Abdul Gaddy, Roscoe Smith, Jordan Hamilton, Reggie Bullock and Dontae Taylor who all scored in double digits to lead their version of the American squad to the chip.

The loosing team had a tough time finding a rhythm after their early lead. Demarcus Cousins game-high 29 points wasn’t enough. Oriahki was a monster, finishing with a strong 18 points and 11 boards. Rodney Williams junior had 4 or five impressive dunks minus what looked like was going to be a monster before it was rejected by the rim. Phil Pressy made a few nice passes while showing decent floor generalship, including good passing (one for an assist through his legs while drving to the rim) and finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assits, 4 steals, 3 turnovers.

In the end, USA Two dressed in grey were lead by Avery Bradley’s 25 points and Roscoe Smith’s 22 points in the 117-104 victory over Team Two in red. Jordan Hamilton contributed heavy adding 16 points, 10 boards, 4 assits and impressing the scouts with the level of his game over the weekend. USA Two played a very organized game and seemed to be the best meshed team of the three American squads. Bradley and Gaddy were named CO-US MVP and Serbian beast Nikola Markovic was named International MVP.

The Nike Global Challenge was not only a great experience for the kids as basketball players, but it was seemed genuinely culturally enriching as well. Saturday’s game between Lithuania (81) and Senegal (52) was never really competitive, but the two teams got the most out of every minute of their match-up – even sharing the bus on the ride to the gym was of cultural significance. The Senegalese team began a full-squad sing along in their native dialect much to the delight of their opponents who were seated in the rear.

Senegal’s leading scorer for the week, silky guard Byago Diouf, lead the team in harmony. He instructed his teammates to bring the song down to a whisper on one verse and to the top of their lungs the next one. Tough 7-footer Assanne Sene, who will play at the University of Virginia this season, stood up and joined Diouf in conducting his teammates like a chorus teacher. The average person would have been intimidated but unfortunately the Senegal kids were a better choir than they were a basketball team.

While the Lithuanian team got a giggle out of their opponent’s musical skills, a few of them took out their digital camera and were taking small videos. While they’d surely played basketball games before, the time these guys from around the world spent together in the dining room, on the bus, in the stands and on the court will certainly be a valuable experience. Even if their team doesn’t finish on a high note there was a lot to take away from this year’s Global Challenge.

All-Tournament Team:
Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Lithuania
Raymond Cintron, Puerto Rico
Aziz Ndiaye, Senegal
Filip Covic, FMP-Serbia
Alwayne Bigby, Canada
Harrison Barnes, USA1
John Henson, USA2
John Wall, USA3
DeShaun Thomas, USA3
DeMarcus Cousins, USA1

2008 International MVP: Nikola Markovic, FMP-Serbia
2008 USA Co-MVPs: Abdul Gaddy and Avery Bradley