The United States won gold Sunday at the FIBA U19 World Championships, beating Serbia 82-68 and earning the US a U19 world title for the third time in the past eight FIBA competitions.
The team, coached by Florida's Billy Donovan and assisted by VCU's Shaka Smart and Virginia's Tony Bennett, went 9-0 and was led by incoming Arizona freshman recruit Aaron Gordon, who was named MVP.
In the title game, Louisville sophomore Montrezl Harrell had a game-high 17 to lift the United States over Serbia. The tournament was held in Prague, Czech Republic.
This tournament is not to be confused with the World University Games going on right now in Kazan, Russia, which include many college players like Doug McDermott and Luke Hancock, and will conclude July 16. The FIBA U19 U.S. team was mostly comprised of college freshmen- or sophomores-to-be, like Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke), Gordon, Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), and Jahlil Okafor, a five-star big man in the class of 2014 (he's yet to commit to a college).
“I feel very, very honored my country asked me to coach this team. I think USA Basketball could have picked a lot of coaches who would have done a wonderful job,” Donovan said. “I thought the thing that changed our team was we had a great group coming back from last year that had some experience, and I think the adding of Nigel, Gordon, Okafor, Justise Winslow, those guys being a little bit younger so to speak, added a different element to our team. It was a special team and I just feel honored that I could be a part of it.”
In earning the MVP, Gordon put up 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds and two steals per game. Okafor was the other American to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. Here's a clip of Gordon at his best.
The performance from the United States offered up a lot of optimism not only for youth basketball here (after all, the US had struggled many times in U19 competition in recent years), but for college hoops next season. Harell, Gordon, Smart and Williams-Goss all showed well. The belief is college basketball will have a rising tide in talent next year, and this did nothing to contradict that notion.
Serbia took the silver and Lithuania beat Australia to take bronze. The win for the United States means American men and women currently own all gold medals in international basketball competition.