Behind Shaq Goodwin’s (Southwest DeKalb H.S./Decatur, Ga.) 30 points that came on flawless 12-of-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 marksmanship from the foul line, the USA’s Men’s U18 Team opened 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship preliminary play Saturday afternoon with a high scoring, 105-42 pounding of U.S. Virgin Islands (0-1) in Sao Sebastiáo do Paraiso, Brazil.
“I thought we got much better in the second half. I thought we took advantage of our frontcourt players,” said USA and University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan. “In the first half we turned it over a little too much, but we did a great job getting to the free throw line, we went to the free throw line 33 times in the first half. The problem was we only converted 16-of-33, we left a lot of points out there. But I thought as the game started to unfold we did a better job of recognizing that we had a huge advantage up front and I thought Shaq Goodwin, Jarnell Stokes, Montrezl (Harrell), all those guys did a nice job finishing around the basket.”
Goodwin’s 30-point outpouring was the third highest single game scoring effort in USA Basketball U18 Championship history. His 12-12 shooting set a U.S. mark for highest field goal percentage in a U18 game.
“I think the chemistry really just built up towards the second half. I knew our guards we’re going to push it so I basically just had to run the floor and they put me in the best position to score,” said Goodwin. “I’ve never had a game like that before and I didn’t realize (perfect shooting) it (tonight). I was just playing basketball, I don’t know, I was just at the right place at the right time.”
Never trailing in the contest, the USA showed it was stronger, deeper and more talented than the undermanned U.S. Virgin Islands squad.
Pressing from the opening tip, the U.S. jumped out to a 6-0 lead with all of its points coming from the charity line. Just inside the halfway point of the opening quarter, following a Rasheed Sulaimon (Strake Jesuit College Prep/Houston, Texas) 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Rodney Purvis (Upper Room Christian/Raleigh, N.C.), the Americans were firmly in control, owning a 15-3 lead.
Sinking just 10 of its 23 free throw attempts in the game’s first 10 minutes, the USA’s Jake Layman (King Phillip Regional H.S./Wrentham, Mass.) scored off an offensive rebound just before the horn for the quarter sounded, and the U.S. led 26-13.
U.S. Virgin Islands cut the U.S. advantage to 28-19 to start the second quarter, but Julius Randle (Prestonwood Christian Academy/ McKinney, Texas) scored four consecutive points and the USA closed out the first half comfortably ahead 48-24.
Outscoring U.S. Virgin Islands 28-8 in the third stanza, the USA closed the contest strong, outscoring the islanders 20-10 to take the 105-42 decision.
“We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. We’ve been working out really hard. W started a little bit slow, but once we got into the groove we just really started having fun out there. We were executing all the coaches’ plans, and we had a lot and I thought we did really well,” stated Sulaimon.
Further aiding the USA cause was Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee/Memphis, Tenn.) who finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Randle finished with 12 points and eight boards, and Sulaimon tossed in 12 points.
The USA dominated the glass 64-30, and Layman led the USA rebounding effort with 10. Nathaniel Britt, II (Gonzaga H.S., D.C./Upper Marlboro, Md.) and James Robinson (DeMatha Catholic H.S./Mitchellville, Md.) shared high assist honors, as each handed out five assists.
The Americans shot just 32-56 from the foul line, but U.S. Virgin Islands, which managed to shoot just 15.5 percent from the field (11-71 FGs), made 16 fewer free throws, shooting 16-of-24.
The 2012 USA U18 National Team is being led by a trio of experienced and successful college coaches, including USA head coach Billy Donovan of the University of Florida). Assisting Donovan along the sidelines are Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and Shaka Smart from Virginia Commonwealth University.
In the opening day’s second game, Canada (1-0) handled Puerto Rico (0-1) 77-51. The day’s final two games feature host Brazil facing Mexico, while Argentina tangles against Colombia.
Eight teams are competing in the 2012 U18 Americas zone qualifier, including the USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. The top four finishing teams in the tournament will qualify for next summer’s 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.
The USA continues preliminary round against Mexico on Sunday (1 p.m. EDT), then finishes off Group A preliminary round action against host Brazil on June 18 (5 p.m. EDT). The top two teams from Group A and Group B will advance to play for 1st-4th place, while the No. 3 and No. 4 ranked teams play out for 5th-8th place. The semifinals will be played on June 19, and the final round games will be contested on June 20.
In the hunt for a sixth gold medal, USA men’s teams are 38-2 overall in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship (formerly known as the Junior World Championship Qualifier), and have captured gold in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010, while winning a silver in 2008 and a bronze medal in 2002.
Serving as USA assistant coaches are Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and Shaka Smart from Virginia Commonwealth University.