Posted On: 06/11/18 11:13 AM

Minnesota’s own Matthew Hurt was scored as Team USA’s most efficient player Sunday with a near double-double in the U18s 105-73 opening game victory over the Dominican Republic.  The Prep Hoops Five Takeaways breaks down the victory.

One.  Mr Efficient.  I’m not exactly sure how the Team USA box score grades efficiency but I agree with Matthew Hurt being the most efficient player on the team.  Hurt scored his dozen points on only four shots (two threes and four of four at the foul line) but he also grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes on the court.  The first half of play was a selfish, sluggish twenty minutes for the USA but when Hurt had the ball he looked to move it and several of the USA first half baskets were the result of Hurt finishing or Hurt’s quick decision making finding teammates.  The plays that stood out for me were the following (none were scoring plays):

  1. Hurt curling a screen, catching at the top of the key and zipping the basketball to a cutting teammate for a score.  Matthew led his teammate to the open space with the pass and it was a feed that the defender had zero chance of catching up to and became a score.
  2. Hurt grabbed one of his nine rebounds on the defensive end and pushed the other way ahead of the retreating defense to find a breaking teammate on the wing for an open three-point make (I just described two assists for you so you know the USA stats – who have Hurt for one – are a tad suspect).
  3. Matthew made a three, sprinted back the other way, switched a screen stopping a Dominican guard, switched back to his man and blocked a shot in the low post.

Two.  A Change of Pace. The first half was an individual shot jacking routine of Team USA guards throwing up no pass or one pass attempts and giving up high percentage scores to the Dominican Republic because of bad defense.  The USA 18s had a single digit first half lead until Coach Bill Self got a chance to correct his team’s approach at the break and then things changed in the second half.

The three guys who really took to the halftime words of Coach Self were Illinois signed 2018 Ayo Dosunmu, Kentucky committed 2019 Tyrese Maxey, and five star 2019 Josiah James.  Ayo Dosunmu was a second half game changer with his defense.  Self extended his U18 defense full court and Dosunmu did a fantastic job of sitting deep in a stance and moving his feet to turn the handler every pair of dribbles.  The initial pass from the guard into the Dominican offense was high off the arc disrupting the halfcourt motion thanks to the Dosunmu defense and off the ball Ayo denied his man a simple catch as he was a step ahead at all times.

Josiah James only played a dozen minutes and missed on four of his five shots but when Coach Self looks at the film with his guys I think they will see James had a better game than the box score shows.  James was active on the glass, was active moving off the ball and moving the ball, and defensively he was a constant in the right position (which led to a couple steals and a deflection).

Three.  Mr Maxey.  Tyrese Maxey was on the floor more than any other Team USA player because his motor and pace of play was at a different level than the other nine.  With a step into space advantage there was no chance that a Dominican player could get back in transition and make a play on Tyrese and in halfcourt defense if Maxey turned the corner into space he was at the rim before the help could notice and then react.  Maxey scored 18 points on eight shots (5 of 8 shooting, hit a couple threes) with five boards, three steals, and three assists and more importantly the energy he brought to the court lifted all of his teammates.

Four. Cole Anthony.  The final box score credited Cole Anthony for 18 points in 27 minutes on 7 of 13 shooting (2 of 6 at the arc).   The numbers look solid but there was a story behind them from tip to buzzer.  In the first half Team USA didn’t move the basketball well at all and a big part of that was the poor early shot selection of the team including Anthony.  The ball stopped quickly when it hit the hands of some of the top USA guards but that changed in half two.  When Team USA was at it’s best Cole was creating shots for others (four assists) and creating shots for himself against a late reacting defense..  Anthony has the ability to produce scoring numbers in ways that are rare for players of his age and when he took shots within the offensive framework he was at his five star best.  Cole will be the toughest backcourt cover in this event and when he’s playing within the Bill Self framework nobody will slow him.

Five.  Coming Up.  Tonight USA plays Panama and tomorrow they take on Puerto Rico.  Quarter-finals action starts Thursday with the title game being played on Saturday.  This USA team also has Coby White who will be at North Carolina next week starting class (he scored 14), five star 2019 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (10 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes), and five star big man Armando Bacot who missed a double-double by a board in only 15 minutes of play.