AST 2014: Back to the Future23. April 2014

Sometimes you need to sit down. Relax. Take a look into the review mirror and enjoy what has happend in the past. Things that lay so far away come to life again. Memories become almost present reality. And there he is, Magic Johnson dishing out fancy passes, leaving the opposing team, the fans in attendance and some of his running mates behind in sheer awe. Here comes Tim Duncan working on the low block, faking the pass to the open shooter on the weak side before turning around for the bankshot. Oh wait, skying in is Vince Carter, throwing it down with authority as the US Sports Arena erupts.

Paying a visit to the Albert Schweitzer Tournament and watch the U.S. team play is always something special. And you don‘t have to hop into the Delorean for Magic, the Big Fundamental or Air Canada. Just four years ago it‘s been a skinny, swaggy point guard named Ryan Boatright who led his squad to 4th place. Yes, the one who won an NCAA Championship as a UConn Huskie this spring alongside german NT player Niels Giffey. Who could have known in 2010…

That being said it‘s a must to go see the U.S. select team play at the u18 stage on german soil. Just for the fun of it. Just for the love of the game, that these kids bring to the floor every night. Just because you never know where they might end up in the future. Just because of all the highlights that might happen. And to compare the style of play that‘s taught overseas in comparison to euro-ball. With this year‘s group it is no different. During a shortened preparation HC Mike Olson and his staff managed to form a unit that is surprisingly willing to learn during each practice and adapt to the teams they face. A team that earns to be declared as just that: a team. In group C action the U.S. boys finished preliminary round with a perfect 3-0 record, averaging as many as 98.7ppg, holding opponents to only 73.7 points per game.

The early success during the 2014 Albert Schweitzer Tournament comes from intense practices, where the whole coaching staff addresses numerous aspects of the game. Behind closed doors the U.S. has worked on press breaks, plays against zone defense, setting up a full court press that falls back into a 2-3-zone, the challenges of playing under FIBA rules. So far it has all worked out pretty good. Maybe the biggest strength of this roster is its versatility, producing three different topscorers in each game so far. On opening night Shavar Newkirk scored 22pts to go with 6reb and 4as against Chile (92-71). Going against Ukraine (90-75) it was up to Wisconsin commit Ethan Happ to shine with 24pts and 9reb. Closing out group play Mike Williams netted 20pts versus France (83-75) on 7 of 12 shooting from the field.

Entering qualifying round both Newkirk (15.7ppg) and Napp (17.3ppg) are amongst the Albert Schweitzer Tournament‘s top15 scorers. When it comes to rebounding the basketball the duo is joined by Scott Lindsey (6.7rpg), which makes the United States squad the only team with three players in the top15 rankings. An even closer look unveils something special, something unique. Newkirk is the only payer who is ranked in the top15 in scoring (11th), rebounding (7.0rpg, 10th) and assists (4.7apg, 3rd).

Facing both Italy (3-0) and reigning AST champs Spain (2-1) in the upcoming qualifying round the biggest tests are yet to come for these young gentlemen. Whatever the results may be, it is for certain this U.S. team will bring its A game to the table in order to make it to the semi-finals on friday. And who knows which player will step up next … or will even be talked about in the future.

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