Class of 2014 dominates adidas Nations in Los Angeles. Underdog USA 2014 Blue Team defeats favored USA 2014 Red team in championship game. African team takes third place game. We also take a quick look at event’s top overall performers.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Countries from around the world continually get better at the game of basketball. If 2013 adidas Nations is any indication.when the United States is still the top country when it comes to producing the best 18-and-under players in the world.
After four days of competition and skill instruction among elite 18U players representing the United States, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America, it was two clubs representing the U.S. class of 2014 that squared off for the adidas Nations championship on Monday night at Long Beach City College.
A nip-and-tuck affair came down to a made runner by Romelo Trimble (Bishop O’Connell, Arlington, Va.) that gave his 2014 Blue team a 79-75 lead with just under 30 seconds remaining in the game. Trimble’s teammate, Theo Pinson (Wesleyan, Greensboro, N.C.), then held off the 2014 Red comeback by canning two free throws with 13 seconds remaining after Kevon Looney (Hamilton, Milwaukee, Wis.) had cut the 2014 Red’s deficit back to a single bucket on a converted put back.
The USA 2014 Red team trailed 63-54 entering the fourth quarter and its 81-77 loss to the upstart 2014 Blue team was its first at the event.
Pinson led four 2014 Blue players in double-figures with 15 points, but he made only 4-of-12 field goal attempts. That type of shooting was indicative of the overall marksmanship in the title game. The winning 2014 Blue team shot 41.9 percent from the floor, while the 2014 Red team shots 35.9 percent.
In addition to Pinson, Reid Travis (De La Salle, Minneapolis, Minn.) with 14 points, D’Angelo Russell (Montverde Academy, Montverde, Fla.) with 11 points and Trey Lyles (Indianapolis Tech, Indianapolis, Ind.) with 10 points also hit double figures for the winning team.
The favored 2014 Red team was led by Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.) with 17 points. Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the end of first half to give his team a 38-32 lead at intermission. At that point, Johnson had 15 points, but he did not hit a field goal in the second half as the 2014 Blue team — Russell in particular — did a good job defensively on the returning Student Sports All-American.
Johnson was the only player to reach double-digit rebounding with 11. Teammate Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young, Chicago), the player who garners the most votes among recruiting analysts as the top-ranked player in the 2014 class, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Johnson was looking to close out his summer with another standout performance at the event – and for the most part he did — minus one half. He’s now itching closer to joining the conversation as the top overall prospect in the class of 2014. Okafor has owned the rights to that title since the beginning of spring and the only thing keeping him from a consensus No. 1 ranking is consistency.
Okafor’s performances during the third July live period in Las Vegas and at adidas Nations did nothing to stamp his position — nor did any player do anything to convincingly wrestle that title away from him.
Africa Finishes Strong
One of the pleasant surprises of adidas Nations was the play of the team made up of young players from the continent of Africa. As a group, they played aggressiv both offensively and defensively — which was not always the case among the various teams — and didn’t lack for confidence.
In Sunday night’s semifinal contest against the USA 2014 Blue team, Africa fell behind 16-2 to begin the game. The Africans battled back to trail by only one point (45-44), before succumbing to the Americans, 78-61.
In Monday’s third place game, team Africa again fell behind big early –trailing 12-2 against the USA Red 2015 team. This time, however, the Africans were able to come all the way back and recorded a 69-56 win.
The key was a 21-13 second period advantage, as 6-foot-2 Sidy Ndir (Senegal) closed out the first half with a breakaway dunk to cap Africa’s turnaround. The lefty shooting guard wasn’t bashful and did not dwell on misses or mistakes — he just kept attacking defenses. Ndir, who does not attend a U.S. high school program or prep school, finished with a game-high 23 points, including three-of-seven 3-pointers.
Also impressive for Africa was 6-foot-1 point guard Nehdi Ngouma (Congo) with 18 points and 6-foot-8 forward Papa Sadia Ndiaye (Senegal) with 16 points. The trio combined to make 7-of-14 3-pointers in the third place victory.
The USA Red 2015 team (which had a few 2016 players sprinkled on its roster) was led by 6-foot-7 Cameron Walker (Righetti, Santa Maria, Calif.) with 13 points and athletic 6-foot-5 guard Charles Mathews (St. Rita, Chicago) with 12 points.
Along with Ndir, here is a quick look at Student Sports’ top five overall performers at 2013 adidas Nations:
1. D’Angelo Russell (Montverde Academy, Montverde, Fla./2014 Blue) 6-4 SG
2. Sidy Ndir (Senegal/Africa) 6-2 SG
3. Michael Nzei (Our Savior New American, Centerreach, N.Y./Africa) 6-8 PF
4. Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif./2014 Red) 6-6 SF
5. Jonah Bolden (Australia) 6-8 SF