Thursday, 26 July 2007

Pan-Am Men's Basketball Day One Review

Despite leading by one at halftime, the United States couldn't hold off Uruguay in the men's Pan Am Games opener for both countries, eventually losing to the South American nation 81-72 in Rio de Janeiro. Indiana's D.J. White paced the Americans with 14 points and nine rebounds while Oregon's Maarty Leunen chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds. The back-and-forth game saw nine lead changes during the first half. The American squad led by as many seven points after halftime. In Wednesday's other preliminary round games, Puerto Rico (1-0) behind 21 points from Dallas Mavericks guard Jose Barea rolled over Canada (0-1) 82-63; host Brazil (1-0) got double figure scoring from five players and held off the U.S. Virgin Islands (0-1) for an 86-81 win; and Argentina (1-0) rallied back late to down Panama (0-1) 76-71... from

Here is an article from ESPN written by Fran Fraschilla, their international basketball expert, that previews the Pan-Am tournament including comments on all teams. Fraschilla also provides his thoughts on the recently completed FIBA U-19 tournament in Serbia in which the USA was defeated in the gold medal game by the hosts Serbians

"With the USA Basketball's senior men's team competing for an Olympic berth in the upcoming Tournament of the Americas in August, Jay Wright's Pan Am team will operate in relative anonymity this week in Rio de Janeiro. However, the competition down there will be tough; the Americans will be competing against a number of senior national teams that will be using this tournament to get ready for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and company next month in Las Vegas. The task for Wright and his team of college stars will be just as daunting as it has been for the past two decades. (Team USA has not won a Pan Am gold medal since 1983 when North Carolina sophomore Michael Jordan led the squad in scoring.) Fortunately, two of the best teams in the tournament, Argentina and Brazil, will be saving many of their best players for the NBA stars. But to compete for a medal in Brazil, where the U.S.'s competition starts tonight with a game against Uruguay and continues with the medal rounds this weekend, Wright's club has to answer two major questions in its attempt to pick up a medal. First, can Roy Hibbert be a dominant low-post presence, both offensively and defensively? Secondly, can a team selected for its skill level instead of athleticism shoot well enough from the perimeter to keep opposing defenses honest on Hibbert? It is going to be difficult but doable. This Pan Am Games field not particularly deep because of the focus on the Tournament of Americas. But, Wright's team will be in a back alley brawl every night because of the "USA" on their chest. After watching practice last week in Haverford, Pa., here is my take on the roster that Team USA has put together:

Joey Dorsey, Memphis
I am sure the thought process for selecting him was that this team needed a banger to match up against some of the big men in the tournament, and Dorsey can bang with the best. As long as he channels his energy properly, he can play an effective role for Jay Wright with his defense and rebounding. But his offense is limited at this point.

Wayne Ellington, North Carolina
He can shoot the ball and create his own shot as well. He is the youngest player on this team and must be ready for the intensity and physicality of international play. Ellington is on his way to being an excellent defender.

Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
He has a funky-looking shot, but it is effective from 3-point range. His ability to get open looks will depend on Team USA's point-guard play in this tournament

James Gist, Maryland
I did not see the trials, but I saw him practice last week and was mildly surprised at his selection. He really improved offensively this year for the Terps, but the question is will be able to score against bigger, more physical opponents? He is athletic enough to be an "energy player" for Wright off the bench.

Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
His passing may actually overshadow his scoring because he will command double- and triple-teams from opponents. That will come easy to him because of his effectiveness in passing the ball in John Thompson's Georgetown offense. Ultimately, however, he'll need a couple of monster scoring games for this team to reach its potential.

Maarty Leunen, Oregon
I didn't get a great feel for him at the Team USA practice, but he has the reputation of being a great "blend" player. He has improved his outside shot enough to be a threat and will play hard.

Derrick Low, Washington State
He is a very smart and gritty player with deceptive quickness. He is able to hit Nash-like shots in traffic and sees the court well. If he gets into the lane and can create open looks for his teammates, Low will really help this offense.

Eric Maynor, VCU
He has excellent quickness and vision in the open court and is a just good enough shooter from 17 feet to keep defenses honest. His lack of physical strength could potentially be a problem against more experienced guards but, like his game-winner against Duke in the NCAA Tournament, this is another opportunity to keep himself on the map.

Drew Neitzel, Michigan State
He has morphed from the caretaker freshman point guard into an aggressive scorer. He may very well lead this team in scoring in this tournament and his Izzo-like toughness will rub off on his teammates. Neitzel looks ready for an All-American season.

Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
He is a scoring guard in a point guard's body, and he scores in a variety of ways. Though not afraid to give the ball up, Reynolds needs to be an aggressive scorer for Team USA because he can get a shot whenever he needs to.

Kyle Weaver, Washington State
This guy plays hard and can be a very effective wing defender and runner. His jump shot is spotty, especially from the 3-point line, but he slashes well and will get to the foul line. He could be a valuable player for Wright because of his intangibles.

D.J. White, Indiana
He gave a good effort on the defensive end at practice and needs to be an effective rebounder. The key question is whether he will be able to finish inside because, while he plays hard, he doesn't play with great elevation.

For those who follow college basketball and NBA basketball closely, there will be some familiar names popping up on other Pan Am rosters. Here are a few:

Puerto Rico They usually have a very pesky backcourt, and it's no different this year. Jose Juan Barea -- a former Northeastern guard and current Dallas Maverick -- is excellent as this team's catalyst. And his backcourt mate Ricky Apodaca, who starred at CAA rival Hofstra, can score.

Panama Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock, the former George Washington Colonial is a scoring machine. Jamaal Levy, who played at Wake Forest and Jaime Lloreda of LSU anchor the front line. Michael Hicks starred for Ronnie Arrow at Texas A&M Corpus Christi has had a very productive European career so far.

Argentina This is basically the "B" national team that will be competing in Rio. Gabe Mikulas had a nice career at East Carolina, and most of the rest of this team are playing professionally in Argentina and in Spain. Manu Ginobili and Andres Nocioni, by the way, will also pass on playing for Argentina's "A" team in Las Vegas.

Brazil Like Argentina, Brazil is leaving big guns like Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejao and Nenehome, so the most familiar name is former Gonzaga power forward, J.P. Batista, who played last season in Lithuania.

Canada Leo Rautins, who starred at Syracuse and is one of Canada's all-time greats, will coach this team that includes his son Andy, a current Syracuse Orange. Sheray Thomas (Kentucky) and Olu Famutimi (not playing at the Pan-Am Games)(Arkansas) played in the SEC, and Jermaine Bucknor starred at Richmond.

U.S. Virgin Islands Tim Duncan and Raja Bell would make this team very competitive, but they are not playing. Instead, Drexel big man Frank Elegar will gain valuable experience in the tournament, and former Pittsburgh Panther Carl Krauser will help in the backcourt.

USA Pan Am schedule
Preliminary round:
Uruguay (Wednesday, 9 p.m. EDT)
Panama (Thursday, 6:45 p.m.)
Argentina (Fri., July 27, 6:45 p.m.)

The top two teams from each group will advance to the medal round.
Seminfinals (Saturday)
Finals (Sunday)

FIBA Under-19 wrap-up by Fran Fraschilla

Fair or not, this 8-1 U.S. team was judged on whether it won gold at the FIBA World Championship Under-19 tournament in Novi Sad, Serbia. I know it sounds like a broken record but I wasn't surprised that Serbia defeated the United States 74-69 on Sunday. Outside shooting, as it has so many times in the past, proved to be an Achilles heel for the United States. The team made just 33 percent of its deep shots in the nine games. It hurt the team in the last two games when it was 10-of-48 from behind the 3-point line. It nearly cost the team its semifinal win over France. In the gold-medal game loss to Serbia, the poor perimeter shooting -- as well as the 11-for-24 shooting from performance the foul line -- proved to be the difference. This event generated very little press coverage here in the United States. This time of year is for the pure hoops junkies and NBA draftniks. That's the reality of American basketball. Remember that Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Spencer Hawes were all eligible to play in this tournament. Understandably, a world championship at this age group is not the most pressing matter to them. It is a pressing matter, however, for the rest of the basketball world and it shows. The U-19 tournament produced a lot of names that NCAA fans are not yet familiar with, so I thought I would get you acquainted with a few of them:

Solomon Alabi, Nigeria (Florida State) Alabi is every bit of 7-1 and still developing his offensive skills, but Leonard Hamilton will love this young man's athleticism. The Monteverde Academy (Fla.) product averaged a serviceable 8 points and 8 rebounds in Novi Sad.

Andrew Ogilvy, Australia (Vanderbilt) Kevin Stallings should be ecstatic because the 6-11 Ogilvy was one of the best big men in the tournament along with Brazil's Paulo Prestes. Ogilvy is the best Australian NBA prospect since Andrew Bogut and should have an immediate impact in the SEC. While Bogut was an excellent passer, Ogilvy averaged 23 points and is more advanced offensively than Bougut was at the same stage.

Josue Soto, Puerto Rico (Florida International) The Florida State transfer will sit out this season. He is a scoring point guard, and FIU is the same school that produced Orlando Magic point guard Carlos Arroyo, who has had his share of success at the international level. Soto put up 14 points a game for Puerto Rico this week.

Kai Williams, Canada (South Dakota State) Williams is a very effective 6-6 small forward who was a productive scorer and shooter for Canada in this tournament. The Regina, Saskatchewan, native led South Dakota State in scoring as a freshman, averaging almost 13 points a game.

Dogus Balbay, Turkey (Texas) Rick Barnes found a very suitable backup to All-American candidate D.J. Augustin in Balbay. The 6-foot left-hander, who spent last year in prep school in New Hampshire, is a pure point guard and a very crafty player. He averaged 12 points and an impressive 6 rebounds a game in this tournament.

Patrick Mills, Australia (St. Mary's) Mills is the latest Aussie to show up in Moraga, Calif. Daniel Kickert was a quality big man for Randy Bennett's Gaels, but Mills is a 6-foot scoring point guard who averaged 15 points a game in Novi Sad. He will put points up from deep.

Emmanuel Negedu, Nigeria (Arizona) Negedu is committed to Arizona, and Lute Olsen is getting just what the doctor ordered for his Wildcats -- a 6-7 athletic small forward with a lot of toughness. He averaged 17 points and nabbed 8 rebounds a game in the tournament.

No comments: