Saturday, July 23, 2016

Canada Shows Puerto Rico What The Next Level Looks Like

Canada once again showed why they are one of the best teams in this tournament with a 83-66 win over Puerto Rico in the FIBA Americas U18 Semifinal.  Canada dominated the game from the outset and never allowed Puerto Rico to come within 10 points since going up 15-3 in the first quarter.

Puerto Rico looked tired and the entire team seemed to be satisfied with qualifying for the World Championship the day before against the USVI. Coach Ortiz looked to their bench to try and create some energy early in the game but to no avail. You could see the lack of emotional interest by almost everyone on the team and it showed in their style of play.

What has hurt Puerto Rico throughout the tournament and continued to plague them yesterday was their inability to protect the ball.  The team had a total of 23 turnovers and only 9 assists. That speaks to what we saw yesterday with almost everyone on the team playing one on one basketball.  Puerto Rico shot a total of 22 three point shots making only 5.  Those 17 misses turned into easy transition buckets for Canada. 

A bigger problem moving forward for Puerto Rico may be the teams refusal to stay committed to playing team defense. The refusal to help the helper was evident throughout the game with the team struggling all night to make second and third rotations. It's a problem that has plagued Puerto Rico throughout this tournament.  

An Atlantic-10 Assistant Coach who watched yesterday's game said this about Puerto Rico's play yesterday, " What I saw yesterday was really really bad. They have a lot of players who have no idea how to play selfless basketball. And some of their players just refused to play defense. It's almost like they didn't care about the game but instead focused on padding their individual statistics."

This mindset has become the norm with many young players and it can destroy the fabric of a team. You could see this happening yesterday with players bickering and fighting with each other over the failure of some guys to commit to playing defense on every possession.  It became a pattern time after time with players from Puerto Rico not being able to stay in front of their man.  If you cannot defend, you cannot compete with elite teams. 


Lets see if the players from Puerto Rico will commit to playing for each other or we will see another ugly performance of Me vs. We.  We have watched four games thus far and have yet to see the players call one huddle during the game. Teams that play for each other and are connected typically call anywhere from 5-10 huddles a game. A team that never huddles is a team that is selfish by definition. 

We play Brazil for third place and a bronze medal later today, lets see if Puerto Rico can do three very simple things. If they do they have a chance at beating a very talented Brazilian Team. 

1. 12 Turnovers or less
2. 45 Rebounds In Total
3. 20 Assists



Friday, July 22, 2016

Puerto Rico Qualifies For World Championship With Win Against The USVI

Puerto Rico started off slow and then got things going in the second half for a 85-61 win versus the USVI. Ethan Thompson led all scorers with 24 points.  Christian Negron led the team with 11 rebounds and PG Jhivvan Jackson had 15 points and 4 assists.

The team from the VI which has yet to win a game in the tournament started off strong. They took an early lead playing a 2-3 zone on defense and attacking the rim off the dribble offensively. Puerto Rico's Head Coach Danny Ortiz made the necessary adjustment bringing in Jorge Pacheco who went 6/12 from inside the arc and finished with 15 points in what was the best game of the tournament for Pacheco. Puerto Rico struggled early in the game against the zone.


With the win Puerto Rico, quailed for the 2017 FIBA Americas U19 World Championship. Brazil, Canada and Team USA also qualified from the Americas. Those 4 teams which play todayn the semifinals of FIBA Americas all received an automatic bid to the World Championship. Puerto Rico plays Canada this afternoon at 4:45p.



Thursday, July 21, 2016

Puerto Rico Beats Chile 70-60

Puerto Rico finally played up to it's potential last night beating Chile 70-60. In what was a critically important game for both teams Puerto Rico played fantastic team basketball.  With a sold out arena and thousands of Chilean fans in attendance this was a huge night for Chilean basketball and their U18 team in particular. This team has been nurtured and developed for the last 5 years.  Next years' U19 World Championship was the ultimate goal. All Chile had to do was beat Puerto Rico at home to qualify. Puerto Rico played the role of dream killers last night.

Jesus Cruz led Puerto Rico scoring with 15 points. Ethan Thompson had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Cruz, Thompson and Jhivvan Jackson pushed the tempo and attacked holes in the defense. Leandro Allende who sat out of the USA game due to injury made a couple of big three point shots which helped keep Puerto Rico in the game. Jorge Pacheco gave PR some solid play at PG as well.

One the things we saw last night which we didn't see against Team USA was the overall competitive spirit. Puerto Rico is loaded with talent and when they play together and and are locked in defensively, they can compete with anybody in this tournament. The 4th quarter of last night's game was a great example of this.  When Chile needed PG Nicolas Aquirre and Center Filipe
Haase to impose their will on the game, Puerto Rico did all the things winning teams do defensively. They communicated at a high level, their defensive rotations were pretty much flawless and they consistently helped the helper. PF Nick Washington, who really gave Puerto Rico nothing against Team USA showed up on the defensive end in a major way.  He fought Haase Chile's 6'10 250 pound Center all night for position and took Haase completely out of the game in the 4th quarter. PF Adrian Ocasio also gave Puerto Rico some really productive minutes.

Overall Puerto Rico took a big step in the right direction last night.  A win against the USVI this afternoon guarantees them a spot in the U19 World Championship.  The US Virgin Islands is not a team to be underestimated. They have not gotten a win yet in the tournament but are talented and could pose some matchup problems for Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

5 Things Puerto Rico Must Do To Beat Chile

Puerto Rico U18 plays Chile's U18  team tonight at 8:45pm in what could be the game that determines who qualifies for the U19 World Championship from their bracket next summer in Egypt. Team USA looks like a lock so there is only one spat left. The two teams know each other fairly well given Chile spent 4 days in Puerto Rico earlier this month and the two scrimmaged against each other several times.

Chile is led by PG Nicolas Aguirre and C Filipe Haase. Aguirre is widely considered to be the best amateur PG in South America and Haase who verbally committed to Colorado State is a 6'10 workhorse who can score from the block and knock down jumpers from behind the arc. The team does a great job of feeding the ball into the post and their guards understand the value of cutting hard to the basket and creating space to Haase to wheel and deal. Haase is an above average passer and finds open shooters when double teamed. PG/SG Ignacio Arroyo is often the recipient of those passes and knocks down open looks consistently. He led the team in scoring last night vs. ISV 16 points. 

Chile is an incredibly disciplined team with players who know and accept their roles. They rarely take bad shots and always look to make the extra pass. The arena is sold out for tonight's game and like almost all home game that matter when you are playing away Puerto Rico must accept that they are starting the game down 10 points. They must accept that over the course of the game the referees may make up to five calls that are in favor of the home team and will cost Puerto Rico up to 10 points. Tonight is a huge night for Chilean Basketball. This team, the home team has been nurtured and developed for years to get to this point. One game at home to qualify for the 19U World Championship. 

Puerto Rico is also in an unique position. They get to play the role of spoiler. Typically Puerto Rico has been the favorite in most of the games they play in FIBA. Yesterday was an exception and USA proved why they are on a completely different level then PR. But tonight the U18 Team from Puerto Rico can prove itself to be a team or what some are suggesting is a group of all stars uncommitted to playing and sacrificing for each other. Only time will tell which one the players decide they want to be. 

We have put together a list of 5 things Puerto Rico must do to beat Chile at home. 


1. Accept Roles and Responsibilities/Energy Generating Behavior"EGB"-Thus far we have seen players do all sorts of things that are not consistent with the roles they need to play to help the team win. Tonight must be about WE not ME.  Each player needs to focus on finding a way to help the team win other than scoring. At the next level they call it getting "EGBs". Energy Generating Behavior is infectious and when players accept their roles and focus on how to get EGBs it changes the way the team plays.  

2. Play Team Defense and Help The Helper-Chile is the most disciplined and selfless team in the tournament. They often make five passes in a possession before taking a shot. For a poor defensive team this could be a nightmare. Puerto Rico will need to stay focused on their collective rotations and limit open looks for Aguirre and Arroyo. Defense is the calling card for any team trying to steal a game away from home. Thus far, Puerto Rico's team defense has been average. They can't allow Aguirre to get hot early and they must defend Haase intelligently sending different players from different places to double team him. Both guards and bigs must aggressively close out on scorers and not become spectators on the defensive end. 

3. Act Like A Championship Team/Leadership- The entire team from Puerto Rico are really good kids. But, we have seen no leadership from anyone on the team. Players like Cruz, Washington, Allende and Pacheco need to provide leadership and pull guys into huddles and be more vocal during timeouts.  They were part of a team that finished 5th in the world in 2014. There was an energy and vibe with that team. You could see everyone was all in and playing for each other all the time.  Who will emerge as a leader tonight vs Chile?

4.   Turnover/Assist Ratio, 3 Pt FG% and Rebounds-There are three statistics we at IPRB believe are the baseline for winning games. First, as a team we need to be at a three to one (3 to 1) assist to turnover ratio. We would like to see 20 assists and less then 7 turnovers as a team.  Second, every open look from three is not necessarily a good look. We went four for twenty four (4-24) from behind the arc yesterday. Most of those looks were rushed and not in the flow of the offense. There is almost always a better shot available then a long range 3. Puerto Rico must shoot over 30% from behind the arc and shoot no more 16 3-point shots in total.  Lastly, we must rebound the ball as a team and limit Chile to one shot per possession and grab over 40 rebounds as a team. 


5.  Aguirre, Haase and Arroyo Cannot Be Allowed To Beat Puerto Rico/Apply Pressure-Aguirre is streaky and can become deadly if you let him play his game. He has not proven he can make contested shots consistently.  Haase is an emotional player who plays harder when he is successful early. And Arroyo gives the entire team confidence when he knocks down open threes. Puerto Rico must prevent the big three for Chile from getting off early.  There must be a high level communication on where the three of them are on the court and every shot must be contested. There is a lot of pressure on Chile to win tonight and someone other then Aguirre, Haase and Arroyo must be the guy to do that. If Puerto Rico is going to win this game tonight, it's going to be because they contained Chile's big 3. 













Tuesday, July 19, 2016

USA Beats Puerto Rico 103-70 In Opening Game of 2016 U18 FIBA Americas Championship

Valdivia, Chile
7/19/16


Team USA dominates Puerto Rico winning 103-70 in the first game at The FIBA Americas 18U Championship in Valdivia, Chile. Puerto Rico played the first 5 minutes of the game neck and neck with Team USA. But  Team USA's Head Coach Shaka Smart's full court press  "Havoc"  forced Puerto Rico to play much faster then it's accustomed to. The full court press forced Puerto Rico to turn the ball over 26 times. Those turnovers led to multiple dunks in transition.

 In contrast, Puerto Rico went 4-24 from behind the 3-point line and struggled to get anything going in the half court. You could really see how the pressure by Team USA forced Puerto Rico to make really bad decisions with the ball and rush shots. Everybody for Puerto Rico had a single digit efficiency rating with the exception of one player, Christian Negron. Negron was fantastic today.  He may have been the best player on the floor.  Negron played above the rim, showed his array of offensive moves and led Puerto Rico with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists.

A Big East Assistant Coach said about Negron, "He was by far the most active player for Puerto Rico and without question he can play in the Big East. He is big time player who is probably not under the radar anymore after today's game. He is explosive off the floor, plays with an edge and really showed me something tonight. I'm incredibly impressed because he played his best game of the summer against Team USA. That's saying something."

There has been much speculation regarding how much Puerto Rico would put into this game today given that in order for them to qualify for the World Championship next summer, all they need to do is win two of the three games in their pool. The other two teams in the pool are Chile and US Virgin Islands. Clearly Coach Ortiz was open to seeing if the team was up for the challenge of beating Team USA but his smartest move may have been to rest SG Leandro Allende who did not dress today due to an unspecified injury. Ortiz opted to change the starting line up and rotation today against USA which given his experience as a seasoned coach with tons of FIBA experience may end up making a lot of sense. Several key players including Washington, Pacheco, Cruz, Thompson and Jackson will need to show up tomorrow and play much better then they did today. Collectively those 5 went 15/44 from the field and had 17 turnovers. That's simply not good enough for Puerto Rico to advance in this tournament.

Puerto Rico was unable to do any of the 5 things we suggested they needed to do to beat Team USA. Chile is no cake walk so Puerto Rico will need to put this loss behind them and go from there. To be sure Puerto Rico must get better play from their starters and a more consistent approach to running Coach Ortiz's offense.





Monday, July 18, 2016

All You Need To Know About "Havoc"

For those of us who have studied Shaka Smart's rise in the coaching ranks the word "havoc" always seems to be prevalent when speaking about Coach Smart.  He is a guy who values the importance of branding. Take the use of havoc. It typically is not associated with anything positive yet everything about Coach Smart's style of plays seem to have be incredibly positive. He went from an assistant at University of Akron to the Head Coach at The University of Texas. Quite a run in a short period of time. And at the front of that run is his track record are the letter h-a-v-o-c.

Suffocating full court presses with aggressive defenders flying all over the place is nothing new.  Big John Thompson and his Hoyas ran this system in the early 80s, Rick Pitino and the Wildcats did the same during their run to a National Championship and now Coach Smart has taken the system and branded it as "Havoc". It's organized chaos on the court but don't be fooled. This defensive scheme requires players who have both incredible mental conditioning and mental discipline. If you don't have the right personnel there are more holes in this defense then a slice of cheese.

It will be interesting to see if his team of all stars, the U18 Team USA is capable of running havoc during the FIBA Americas U18 Championship which starts tomorrow in  Valdivia, Chile. It will also be interesting to see if any of Team USA's opponents are able to withstand 4 quarters of havoc Team USA style.


The guys over at SB Nation published a revealing piece that helps breakdown Coach Smart's various defenses. It is truly a tutorial that all coaches should take the time to study.


http://www.burntorangenation.com/2015/4/3/8337897/shaka-smart-texas-longhorns-havoc-defense

All You Need To Know About "Havoc"

For those of us who have studied Shaka Smart's rise in the coaching ranks the word "havoc" always seems to be prevalent when speaking about Coach Smart.  He went from an assistant at University of Akron to the Head Coach at The University of Texas. Quite a run in a short period of time. And at the front of that run is his track record and the letter h-a-v-o-c.

Suffocating full court presses with aggressive defenders flying all over the place is nothing new.  Big John Thompson and his Hoyas ran this system in the early 80s, Rick Pitino and the Wildcats did the same during their run to a National Championship and now Coach Smart has taken the system and branded it as "Havoc". It's organized chaos on the court but don't be fooled. This defensive scheme requires players who have both incredible mental conditioning and mental discipline. If you don't have the right personnel there are more holes in this defense then a slice of cheese.

It will be interesting to see if his team of all stars, the U18 Team USA is capable of running havoc during the FIBA Americas U18 Championship which starts tomorrow in  Valdivia, Chile. It will also be interesting to see if any of Team USA's opponents are able to withstand 4 quarters of havoc Team USA style.


The guys over at SB Nation published a revealing piece that helps breakdown Coach Smart's various defenses. It is truly a tutorial that all coaches should take the time to study.


http://www.burntorangenation.com/2015/4/3/8337897/shaka-smart-texas-longhorns-havoc-defense

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Know Your Opponent: Team USA 18U

See article below from USA Basketball on the official roster for their U18 Team.


Team USA Heads To Chile

Team USA's U18 National Team led by University of Texas Head Coach Shaka Smart heads to Chile to compete in the 2016 U18 FIBA Americas Championship.


http://www.usab.com/basketball/media/videos/2016/07/the-usa-u18-final-twelve-head-to-chile.aspx

Team USA Practices In Front of NBA Scouts

Our friends over at Zagsblog.com published a nice piece on Team USA  U18 and what sort of talent they are working with. See the link below.


https://www.sny.tv/college-recruiting/news/fultz-bamba-porter-jr-huerter-impressing-nba-scouts-at-usa-basketball/189742268

5 Things The U18 Team Must Do To Beat Team USA

The FIBA Americas 18U Championship starts Tuesday in Valdivia, Chile. The first game of the tournament on Tuesday just happens to be Team USA vs. Puerto Rico. Team USA is the overwhelming favorite. They have at least 5 projected first round picks and are loaded at every position. This is the type of David vs. Goliath matchup we as fans love to watch. This could end up being the typical blow out win for Team USA or Puerto Rico could do five things to give themselves a chance to win.

Lets be honest here, on paper Puerto Rico doesn't have the level of talent USA does. But Puerto Rico is no slouch either.  2 members of the team are already signed to division 1 schools.  4 other members of the team are being recruited by programs in the Big 5 Conferences and almost all of their players have played at the highest level of travel team and international basketball. That along with the fact that Team Puerto Rico is coached by veteran coach Danny Ortiz  and assisted by Albert Perez which gives Puerto Rico a legitimate chance to win. However, they must do five simple things at a high level from start to finish.


#1. Execute- Coach Ortiz and staff will have a strong game plan but the players must do their job. In the two losses in Argentina they had a total of less then 16 assists. Far to often, guards were over dribbling, not running offensive sets, jacking up threes or waiting late in the shot clock to make smart decisions with the ball. Coach Ortiz's offense is a proven winner internationally. When teams run his stuff and look for third and fourth options Puerto Rico has had tremendous success.


#2. Play Team Defense and "Help The Helper"-If you watched the Senior Mens Team in Serbia earlier this month, you saw their inability to make the second through fourth rotations on the defensive end. The 18U must learn from that and really focus on making an effort to "Help The Helper" and play team defense. You can't out score teams like Team USA so, team defense is paramount. No one player is responsible for playing defense, it must be a team effort.  We have heard very little chatter on the defensive end with maybe one or players consistently communicating  defensively. To beat Team USA communicating on defense and "helping the helper" must be at the top of the list.

#3. Each Possession Counts/Protect The Ball-Anytime you play a team with the level of talent on Team USA, you must protect the ball and make great decisions on every possession. Puerto Rico has experienced PG's in Pacheco and Jackson. If you know anything about Shaka Smart, you know he is going to full court press all game long. He is going to force Puerto Rico's guards to make sound decisions and execute the proper passes to break his signature full court press.  If Team PR turns it over and is careless like they were in Argentina it will be impossible to compete let alone win. On the defensive end Team PR must limit USA to one shot per possession. For that to happen, all five players must rebound and box out on every possession.

#4. Attack, Attack, Attack-If Team USA is the proverbial bully, the one team nobody thinks they can beat, the only way to play against them is to stay in attack mode from start to finish.  The beauty of this game for Puerto Rico is that they have nothing to lose. There is no pressure on Puerto Rico so proving early and often that they are there to fight is an important message to send.

#5. Play For Your Brothers and Your Country-This is a dream come true for any player. Playing against Team USA is something every young player dreams about. This is the first game of the tournament and playing for each other and sticking together no matter what, is so incredibly important. We have yet to see team huddles the way championship teams always huddle. We have yet to see the type of emotion amongst teammates championship teams almost always display.  If there was ever a time to leave everything on the floor it's Tuesday at 1:30pm in Valdivia, Chile versus Team USA.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Puerto Rico 18U National Team Player Scouting Report

Leandro Allende (Freshman/The Citadel University) 6'6 SG/SF-Allende signed with The Citadel earlier this summer. He has as pure a stroke as you will see. Leave him open and its a swish all night long.  He has drastically improved his dribble drive game and is finishing with both hands around the rim. He has a very high IQ ( his father played on PR National Team and was a pro) and is a great teammate. He has been a huge part of the youth national team program's success for 5 years straight. Leandro Allende is a winner!

Jesus Cruz (Post Graduate/Loomis Chaffee School) 6'5 SG/SF-Cruz is an elite slasher and above average athlete. He can finish above the rim with either hand. Cruz can handle it in traffic and makes good decisions with the ball below the foul line. At the next level he can play 1-3.  Streaky shooter but when left open he knocks down the 3 pointer at a high percentage. High character guy and a good teammate.  Mid major D1 programs should be all over Cruz. Playing in the NEPSAC this year will help him get the exposure he needs. He was tucked away at a small school in Miami for the last couple of years so most college programs haven't seen this guy yet.


Ricardo Erans ( Freshman/Benedictine College) 6'1 PG/SG-Erans is a crafty combo guard with above average athleticism. He has been a big time player on the island who will look to prove himself stateside this fall. Solid across the board in all the fundamentals and when he gets going he has the ability to put up major league numbers. Humble kid with a great attitude and good upside. He should be an all league selection at the NAIA level.


Marlon Hargis (Junior/St. Augustine HS) 6'5 SF-Hargis is long and talented. He is in the class of 2018 so he has time to develop his body and his game. He has a knack for getting to the rim. He runs the floor well and has a solid mid range game. He is a deceptive rebounder and defender who can disrupt offenses with his length and lateral movement. Has a chance to be really good if he commits himself to putting on some weight and being a two way player.  D1 programs should start recruiting him now!

Jhivvan Jackson (Senior/Trinity HS) 5'11 PG-Jackson is a big time athlete and a pure PG. He can pretty much get where he wants when he wants. He is highly skilled and can put up big time numbers. He is unselfish and looks to get teammates involved. He is a big time competitor who can get lured into one on one battles. He usually wins those battles though. His has an above average jump shot and can make shots from pretty much anywhere on the floor. When he decides to defend he can be a lock down defender. Needs to do that more often and improve body language when things aren't clicking. Must add 10-15 pounds of muscle to compete and play at a top 20 college program. High major programs in the Big 12, ACC, SEC and Big East are recruiting Jackson.

Elmer Natal ( Senior/Colegio Bautista de Caguas) 6'5 SF/PF-Natal is a newcomer with a great attitude and great work ethic. He has a high motor and can help you on both ends of the floor just being active and making plays. We only got a chance to see Natal in a couple of practices. He has a great reputation on the island and has a number of local colleges looking at him.

Alexis Negron (Senior/IMEI) 6'4 SG-Negron is a pure scorer who stays in attack mode at all times. He has great bounce, can finish off the dribble and plays above the rim. He isn't a pure shooter but his shots seem to fall whether he is open or in traffic. He is one of those kids who seems to love the game and love to compete. Solid defender who needs to be an elite defender to play at the next level. He is absolutely a D1 level player. With his athleticism and skill set he could be a steal for a low or mid-major D1 program.

Christian Negron (Senior/Larkin HS) 6'7 SF/PF-Christian is a an elite athlete who is incredibly long. He has a 7'2 wingspan and uses it on both end of the floor. He is an elite rim protector and finishes as well as any kid in the class of 2017. He can post, square up and make shots out to 18 feet. He is a relentless worker and loves to be coached. His is one of those rare players whose energy meets his skill set. He needs to improve his dribbling and three point shooting but that will come. Negron is a gym rat. High major offers already on deck. He should see several top 20 programs offer before the end of the summer.

Adrian Ocasio ( Freshman/UPR Rio Piedras) 6'7 PF-Ocasio has been very impressive this summer. Strong as rock with a solid skill set, he has impressed everyone with his work ethic and ability to compete at a high level. He too is a newcomer having never played on the National Team. He has a high motor and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Had he gone to high school in the states he would have garnered interest at the D1 level. UPR is getting a good one!

Jorge Pacheco (Freshman/Liberty University) 6'2 PG-Pacheco has been a leader on National Teams since Pre-Mini.  He is an over achiever with an incredible work ethic and a nose for the ball.  Plainly put Pacheco knows how to play. He as an above average jump shot and seems to always make big shots when it counts. He is an experienced, battle tested PG. His two years in Virginia along with 5 years of highly competitive international basketball will ensure great success at Liberty. Pacheco is a steal for Liberty!

Ethan Thompson (Senior/Bishop Montgomery) 6'5 PG/SG- Thompson is the son of Syracuse alum and high riser Stevie Thompson. While he doesn't have his father jumping ability he is way better then his father was at this point. Thompson can play both the one and two. He is an elite shooter and scorer who makes people around him better. A Top 100 level recruit for 2017, Thompson already has Top 20 college programs recruiting him. His older brother plays for his father at Oregon State and insiders have suggested OSU may have an inside track. Thompson has a chance to be special if he stays in the gym. Like a lot of young scorers Thompson must dedicate himself to being a two way player. Once he does that it's curtains.


Nicholas Washington (Post Graduate/South Kent) 6'8 PF-Washington defines what it is to be a glue guy. Most of the things he does don't often show up on the stat sheet but coaches know you can't win championships without guys like Washington on the squad. He is an elite screen setter who gets teammates open looks all night. He shoots the 3 ball off the pick and roll at a high rate and has a nice repertoire of moves in the post.   He can defend positions 2-5 and takes on the challenge of guarding the best big night after night. Washington must prove he can be an consistent scorer in order to contribute at the next level. Washington has Big East, A-10 and Conference USA schools recruiting him.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

FIBA Americas 18U Puerto Rico National Team Preview

Staff Writer
July 13, 2016


The 2016 FIBA Americas 18U Championship starts next week in Valdivia, Chile. 8 teams will compete for a chance to qualify for the FIBA 19U World Championship next summer. Those teams include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, USA and The US Virgin Islands.

Team USA is the favorite to win but Puerto Rico which plays Team USA in their first game may have a shot at beating the prohibitive favorite. The PR 18U team is extremely talented. Led by international veterans including Liberty University PG Jorge Pacheco and The Citadel University SF, Leandro Allende, Puerto Rico has a deep team of experienced players. Pacheco and Allende played with SF Jesus Cruz and PF Nicholas Washington in the 2014 17U World Championship. Cruz is a big time playmaker who needs to play both ends of the floor on every possession for Puerto Rico to have success. PF Nicholas Washington is the biggest player on the team and will be tasked with guarding the best big every night. He has the experience and talent to be an impact player for Puerto Rico.

In addition to that core, the Puerto Rico team has some very highly touted players who are being recruited by many of the top college programs in the states. PG/SG Ethan Thompson from Los Angeles is widely considered to be a top 50 player in the class of 2017 and is being recruited by several Pac-12 schools.  PF Christian Negron from Chicago is being recruited by many BIG-10 schools and PG Jhivvan Jackson from Dallas is also being recruited by schools in the BIG-12, ACC and Atlantic-10 programs. SG Ricardo Eran,  SF Marlon Hargis, and PF Adrian Ocasio should also see meaningful minutes throughout the tournament. Reserve PF Elmer Natal may end up seeing limited minutes given the lack of depth down low. In order for PR to make some noise Jackson, Thompson and Negron will have to play major minutes and make major contributions for this team to reach its goals.

This National Team along with the National Team a year older (1997) has been designated at the future of Puerto Rico basketball. The talent is clearly there given this team has at least nine players who will end up playing D1 college ball. Several of these kids are high major recruits so the talent isn't the question. When there is only one ball and this much talent how they decide to share and play for each other is.