FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2022 Power Rankings
MALAGA (Spain) - The FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2022 starts on July 2 … all the friendly games have been played and teams are arriving in southern Spain. No time like now for the Power Rankings of the teams.
16 - Lebanon
Usually teams will say we are not coming to a youth World Cup as tourists or make up the numbers but we want to win games. But Lebanon making it to Malaga from FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022 is a major surprise - just as it would be if they actually get a victory in Spain.
15 - Egypt
Egypt have won the last two FIBA U16 African Championships and three of the last four but they have not really made any sort of statement at the U17 World Cup despite being one of five countries to appear in all six editions. But the northern Africans have won just five of their 35 games. This team will not have an easy time of it in Spain either.
14 - Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic are playing in their third straight U17 World Cup and this team will be challenged to match their result from 2018, when the country lost in the Round of 16 but bounced back for three straight wins to finish ninth. The Centrobasket team will be lacking in size and will rely on their on-ball pressure and hope to get out and run. If they can hit their three-pointers they could pull off a surprise or two.
Mali is one of the leading countries in youth basketball in Africa - reaching the FIBA U16 African Championship Final the last four editions, albeit beating Egypt just once in those four matchups (in 2017). Mali will have a big team with good size at most positions. But their main issue will be playmaking and if their point guards can limit the turnovers and get their big players in good positions, they could take the next step and improve their best-ever U17 World Cup showing of 12th place in 2018.
12 -New Zealand
New Zealand are making back-to-back appearances after grabbing 14th place in 2018 and then finishing third at the FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022. The Oceanian side have a strong duo of small forward Nic Book and 7-foot center Julius Halaifonua, but they will need a solid showing from the twin point guards Hunter and Phoenix Trego.
11 - Lithuania
Lithuania are back in the U17 World Cup for the first time since 2016, when they were also in Spain and defeated the host side to grab the bronze medal. This Baltic side does not have the same talent level as the one six years ago in Zaragoza. Lithuania struggled in the FIBA U16 European Challengers 2021 but they made it to Malaga and Petras Padegimas and co. will hungry to show they deserve to be here and will not go down without a fight. Lithuania showed in their warmup games that they will crash the offensive glass so opponents must limit the number of second chances.
10 - Japan
Japan are riding high after they claimed a historic first silver at the FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022 to reach the U17 World Cup for the second time - following the 2014 appearance. The team eight years ago was dominated by Rui Hachimura, who did not have nearly as much help as Yuto Kawashima will have in Malaga. Kawashima showed he can carry the team, but he also has Suguru Ishiguchi playing a very good point guard role - joining Kawashima on the All-Tournament Team. One extra bonus is Alejandro Martinez coaching the team as the Spanish playcaller coached Spain at two U17 World Cups - taking fourth in 2014 and 2016 - and also helped Spain win silver at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2007 as assistant coach.
Argentina have never missed the U17 World Cup but the team also has never finished better than sixth place - which happened in 2012. This Argentina group will be very guard/wing heavy and could struggle with bigger teams. Still, the South Americans showed they can come up with big wins - knocking off Canada at the FIBA U16 Americas Championship 2021 to finish second. A couple of their players also beat Canada in early June at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2022 as they grabbed fourth place.
Poland are back on the cadet global stage for the first time since the first edition in 2010, when they lost only to the United States to take second place. The eastern Europeans would love to repeat that same result, but that will be a stretch. Not that Poland lack talent - especially Szymon Nowicki, Jan Nowicki, Marcin Kosiorowski and Jakub Szumert, and the team showed last summer at the FIBA U16 European Challengers 2021 that they can beat good teams, knocking off Croatia, Latvia, Bulgaria and Germany.
Slovenia were joined by Lebanon as newcomers to the U17 World Cup party and the Europeans have one of the most prolific scorers in the competition in Jan Vide, who poured in 27.0 points per game at the FIBA U16 European Challengers 2021. The Balkan side will need the Real Madrid guard to score but he will have help in Lon Lican as well as Blaz Tratar. Still, Vide's ability to fill the basket gives Slovenia an important advantage - not to mention his big game experience of playing in the Real Madrid youth system.
6 - Serbia
Serbia insiders will say the team is drastically weakened with the absence of injured captain and point guard Nikola Topic, but the Balkan team still have a lot of talent as they make their second straight appearance and fourth in total. Head coach Dragoljub Avramovic has a strong core with Mitar Bosnjakovic, Djordje Curcic, Filip Jovic, Bogoljub Markovic and Ognjen Stankovic, and they will definitely be hungry to challenge for a title.
5 - Canada
Canada have never missed the U17 World Cup and also have never failed to reach the Quarter-Finals. But the North Americans also only have one bronze in 2010 to show from their efforts thus far. Canada remained very silent in terms of their team in the build-up to the event - only announcing a 20-man extended roster ahead of the start of their training camp on June 19. So it's not clear at the time of this writing who will even play for Canada. Still, it is safe to assume that Canada will feature very athletic and talented players. Ishan Sharma, Christian Nitu and Jovan Milicevic will likely be the leaders of the team while Mikkel Tyne is a point guard who helped Canada win bronze at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2022.
4 - Australia
Australia also have played at every U17 World Cup and they have rich history in the competition, taking silver in 2012 and 2014 - losing to United States by only seven points in the 2014 Final. Head coach Justin Schueller has loads of experience at this competition, serving as assistant coach in 2014 and 2016 and head coach in 2018. And Australia have some excellent talent on this team, led by 7-foot-1 center Rocco Zikarsky to go along with Joshua Dent and his great vision at point guard, snipers Kye Savage and Jacob Furphy and athletic wings Carlin Briggs and Roman Siulepa. Australia also have the advantage of being a finely-tuned team, having just won the FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022 a couple weeks earlier - even though the jump from the continental level to global will be a big one.
3 - France
France is listed here as 3 in the Power Rankings but it's more like 2b to Spain's 2a. France's squad is just loaded, especially with athletic slashing and shooting wings like Zaccharie Risacher, Killian Malwaya, Mohamed Diawara and Pacome Dadiet not to mention big playmaking guard Noah Penda and Alexandre Sarr inside. While some of those guys can handle the playmaking duties at times, the team might sink or swim with the point guard duo of Illan Petrus and Theo Pichard.
2 - Spain
Hosts Spain are a nose ahead of France in the second spot thanks to their playmakers - especially Sergio De Larrea, who really excels as a 6-foot-5 point guard with great vision and good scoring ability. Spain will be ultra-motivated to finally get a medal after finishing fourth in 2012, 2014 and 2016. And the weapons are there to get Spain onto the podium with 7-foot-3 center Aday Mara, power forward Izan Almansa, guard Lucas Mari and Hugo Gonzalez.
1 - USA
The Americans have never lost a game in the U17 World Cup's history - a perfect 37-0 in five competitions. USA Basketball always have had a training camp just a couple weeks before the tournament and always start a little slow and then just pick up steam. So, anything else in 2022 should not be expected. The one big difference is that Don Showalter is no longer head coach with Sharman White filling his space. Still, United States have a team absolutely loaded with talent. Cooper Flagg reminds observers of a Yugoslavian all-around talent with his ultra-skilled game. Jeremy Fears is a pass-first point guard while David Castillo can shoot the lights out. Of course, the grouping of Ian Jackson, DJ Wagner, Ron Holland and Sean Stewart gives White so many different ways to beat teams. No team in the history of the competition has been able to withstand the United States and their defensive pressure. And it doesn't seem like that will change in 2022.