Judging by the names alone, this year’s USA U18 basketball team probably won’t be mistaken as an all-time squad. Not when the best player—the closest thing to a sure-fire stud on the 12-man roster—was also the team’s second youngest and the nation’s top point guard was left off the team altogether.
Billy Donovan’s bunch was not one to turn heads, light up the highlight reels or even overwhelm opposing competition comprised of vastly inferior talent. It didn’t score 131 points in one game like the 2010 version did, or showcase a prominent “Big Three” like the 2002 squad (which settled for bronze) had done with Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.
And yet, with mechanical precision and dazzling synergy, the 2012 installation of USA U18 Basketball may have been the most dominant of all.
Team USA capped off a five-day stretch of dominance in Brazil on Wednesday, thrashing the host nation for the second time in three days, 81-56, to capture the gold medal at the 2012 FIBA Americas Championship.
Texas high school star Julius Randle (uncommitted, Class of 2013), who is one of only two players on the roster with one year of high school still remaining, led the U.S. attack with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Despite his standing as the second youngest player on the squad, Randle’s double-double on championship night was the most dominant performance of any American during the tournament–if not according to the stat sheet, then certainly the eye test. The physically gifted forward, endowed with a long, wide and strong body, used his high motor to bulldoze through the Brazilian front line. While on the run, Randle caught balls in-stride and displayed a host of post moves—some physical, others finesse—to carve up Brazil inside.
Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) led all U.S. guards with 10 points, finishing the tournament with 20 assists and a team-best 18 steals. Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke) chipped in eight points and was far and away the best perimeter defender on Team USA over the five days.
Memphis-bound forward Shaq Goodwin, who was instrumental in Team’s USA march to the finals, was relatively quiet in the gold medal game. He scored just four points while pulling down five boards. Goodwin’s frontcourt mate for much of the tournament—Tennessee freshman Jarnell Stokes—fared better, posting 11 points and grabbing four rebounds.