History was made at the Rose Garden Saturday night, in front of a record crowd officially listed at over 11,000 people. Players from 8 countries around the world came together on Saturday to upset a very talented squad composed of 10 top high school players from the United States. The victory for the World Select Team was the first since 1998 at the Nike Hoop Summit. A final glance at the scoreboard displayed 97 for the World Team, and 89 for Team US, and the 40 minutes prior were played in a very entertaining fashion for any basketball fan.
The game started off sloppily, with a more up-tempo style that really favored the athleticism and defense Team USA featured with John Wall
and Avery Bradley
at the 1 and 2. Bradley started off scoring the ball in a variety of ways as well, and the USA took a quick 15 to 8 lead into the first timeout at the 4:44 mark. Milan Macvan
was the bright spot for the international team, collecting three early offensive rebounds and scoring 4 early points, while the rest of his squad struggled.
Coming out of the timeout, the World Select Team made a key adjustment that put the other team on their heels for the rest of the game. Coach Rob Beveridge put his team into a zone on the defensive end, and starting releasing his guards back to the defensive end early to prevent the fast break attack of Team USA. As a result, the US group played at a slower pace than they wanted to, and struggled to get quality looks with their lack of ball movement. The gap on the scoreboard closed at the end of the first quarter, but Team USA held a 24-19 lead.
The US Team started out the second quarter creating dribble-penetration against the zone, with the quickness of their Guards on full display. Some sharp shooting from Xavier Henry
helped as well, and the World Select Team picked up 4 quick fouls by the 6:35 mark of the second quarter. The International squad took a quick timeout after John Wall
brought the crowd to his feet with the most explosive dunk of the game. Wall's dunk came from the very edge of the paint on the right side, and the score sat at 32-24 with 5:55 to go in the second. Out of the timeout, strong play from Lithuanian Donatas Motiejunas
and Tomislav Zubcic
lifted the squad, with both players showing well developed ball skills, range on their jumpers, and the ability to mix it up inside. Going into half-time, the 8 point lead had been cut to just one point, with the US Squad still standing atop.
The all-around tools of John Wall
were on full display as Team USA jumped out strong in the third quarter and opened up another lead that hovered around 8-10 points for the rest of the quarter. The most talented player in the game, Wall showed off his court-vision with a couple fancy passes in transition, had another explosive lefty dunk coming from the wing on the break, and showed incredible quickness with his ability to create gaps in the World Team's zone. At the end of the quarter, Team USA held a seemingly comfortable 9 point lead at 70-61.
The start of the fourth quarter became the Tomislav Zubcic
show, however, as he showed a number of well rounded skills. First he took Abdul Gaddy
into the post for two points, before handling the ball up high on the pick and roll, weaving through traffic, and finishing a tough lay-up while taking a foul. Motiejunas also chipped in, showing off his footwork and craftiness down low, and the US only lead by two points with 6:25 remaining. The two teams exchanged baskets for the next couple minutes, and the International team was able to grab its first late lead at 85-83 with around 3 minutes left in the final period behind Kevin Seraphin
, who blocked a John Wall
lay-up on one end, and completed a dunk after creating excellent post position back on offense.
The play of the game came with under two minutes left, after Xavier Henry
hit a three to cut the World Select lead to two points. With the crowd chanting USA and the shot-clock winding under 5 seconds, the ball landed in Milan Macvan
's hands a good step behind the NBA three point line on the wing. Macvan faced up John Henson
, measured the shot, and drained it right before the shot-clock expired in what US Coach John Olive
called the turning point in the game. Up 5 points with under 2 minutes to play, Team USA couldn't recover and the World Select Team earned a hard fought win.
This victory surprised nobody more than the 60+ NBA front office personnel in attendance, whose consensus indicated that this was the weakest international class in years. The guards of the World Select team were expected to struggle with the defensive pressure of John Wall
, Avery Bradley
, and Abdul Gaddy
. Though there was early pressure that lead to turnovers from Edwin Jackson
(guarded mostly by Wall), and Nikos Pappas
, a smart coaching adjustment took care of that problem. With their ability to handle the ball, Motiejunas, Macvan, and Zubcic starting hanging back for outlet passes and taking the pressure off their guards to get the ball up the court.
The advantage up front was clear throughout the whole game for the international squad. DeMarcus Cousins
and Renardo Sidney
showed very little interest in doing anything other than shooting jumpers. On the glass, the World Select Team finished with 25 offensive rebounds, and out-rebounded Team USA 48-29. The starting front line of Sidney, Mason Plumee, and Xavier Bradley only had 5 rebounds, compared to 31 from Macvan, Seraphin and Motiejunas.
Coach Beveridge talked in length after the game about the difference in approach of this world team compared to years past. He noted the leadership of Edwin Jackson
as a translator for his French speaking players, and talked about how team building activities such as designing each others shoes at the Nike Factory developed camaraderie.
Check back with us in the coming days for more final thoughts from Portland, including scouting reports on prospects from both teams, and a closer look at the most highly sought over uncommitted high school player in the country.