Via USA Basketball:
Two weeks of training and competition paid off in gold for the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team (5-0), which earned a 104-64 victory over Argentina (3-2) in the gold medal game at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship on Saturday night at Poliforum Benito Juarez in Cancun, Mexico. Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S. / San Jose, Calif.) was the USA’s top scorer with 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field and also was the top rebounder with 15. Jabari Parker (Simeon H.S. / Chicago, Ill.), who averaged 15.4 ppg., 6.4 rpg. and 2.0 spg. over the USA’s five games, was named as the tournament MVP.
“It’s an honor,” said Parker. “I felt surprised because all these guys, each and every one of them, everybody deserves this MVP trophy. When I got it, I just felt a sense of accomplishment.”
Five players finished in double-digit scoring, including Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S. / Chicago, Ill.), who posted a double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds, Parker scored 14 points, Justin Jackson (Home School Christian Youth Association / Houston, Texas) had 13 and Theo Pinson (Oakridge Military Academy / Greensboro, N.C.) finished with 10 points.
The FIBA Americas U16 Championship is a qualifying tournament for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship. The U.S, Argentina and Canada (4-1), which topped Puerto Rico (3-2) 86-65 in the bronze medal game, advance to next summer’s U17 Worlds, scheduled for June 29 – July 12 in Lithuania.
The USA is now 10-0 in FIBA Americas U16 Championship play after sweeping the competition and earning gold in the inaugural tournament in 2009.
“We have a lot of respect for Argentina,” said USA U16 National Team head coach Don Showalter (Mid-Prairie High School, Iowa). “They play hard and we know they are not going to go down easy. We had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do. Our kids knew it from the first time around that they were going to be a tough team. I thought we approached the game very, very good from a mental standpoint. We were ready to play.”
Okafor got the scoring started 10 seconds into the contest as the USA sprinted out to a 19-3 run that spanned the opening 4:40 of the contest. Argentina began making some buckets and by the end of the first period, the USA’s lead was 30-17. Okafor had 10 of the USA’s first quarter points.
Maintaining its lead through most of the second quarter, the U.S. closed out the half on a 10-2 run to take a 54-30 halftime lead.
Argentina never gave up the fight, but never really threatened the lead as the USA outscored the South Americans 24-21 in the third quarter and 26-13 in the fourth.
“We went in knowing that it was going to be a physical game and that mentally prepared us for it,” said Gordon, who averaged a double-double of 17.0 pg. and 11.2 rpg. over the five-game tournament. “We were prepared for the game and we were able to figure it out and get the win. It’s what we’ve been working for. We’ve been together for two weeks, putting in a lot of effort and hard work, and when it all comes together, there are just no feelings to explain it.”
Larry Austin (Lanphier H.S. / Springfield, Ill.) and Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S. / Apple Valley, Minn.) dished out seven and six of the USA’s 24 assissts, respectively.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, said Austin, who dished out 22 assists in five games. “First off, to be playing for your country is a great feeling. To bring back a gold medal while representing your country is just unbelievable. I’m loving every minute of it.”
The USA outrebounded Argentina 57-39 and scored 56 of its points in the paint, 33 on the fast break and 20 second-chance points. Shooting 56.0 percent (42-75 FGs) from the field and 43.8 percent (7-16 3pt FGs) from 3-point, the U.S. held Argentina to a frigid 32.5 percent (25-77 FGs) from the field.
Argentina was led by Alvaro Merlo, who scored 14 points.
Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei H.S. / Fullerton, Calif.) suffered a fracture-dislocation of his left second metacarpal at 4:03 in the first quarter of the USA’s game against Argentina on June 23 and will not play the remainder of the tournament.
In classification games, host Mexico (1-4) picked up its first win to finish seventh, 76-66, over Costa Rica (0-5) and Brazil (3-2) finished fifth after defeating Chile (2-3) 62-54.
Players eligible for this team must be U.S. citizens born on or after Jan. 1, 1995.
Showalter is being assisted over the next two years by Rich Gray (St. Louis Eagles AAU, Mo.) and Mike Jones (DeMatha High School, Md.).