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.