Reasons every team could win the U17 World Cup title - Part 2
MIES (Switzerland) - United States have never lost a game at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup and will be favorites going into the 2022 edition. But every country is heading to Spain with the dream of hoisting the trophy at the Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena in Malaga on July 10.
We looked at every team and figured out how they could end the Americans' run and dethrone the champs.
Group D - Best result: 2nd place in 2012 and 2014
Australia come to Spain flying high after rolling to the title at the FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022, winning games by an average of 43.8 points and pouring in 96.2 points per contest. Justin Schueller's team only allowed more than 63 points once - in a 109-83 win over Philippines in the Quarter-Finals - and they showed some impressive depth.
Five players averaged double figures points and that does not include point guard Joshua Dent, who did a great job getting his team set up. Rocco Zikarsky is a force in the middle standing at 7-foot-1 with a versatile skill set. Kye Savage, Roman Siulepa and Carlin Briggs are wings who do major damage at both ends of the court while Austin Rapp and Joshua Hughes give Australia some depth inside. Australia will be a finely-tuned machine coming into the tournament and will be hungry to get past the Quarter-Finals again after getting bounced at that stage in 2016 and 2018 - in addition to 2010. The other two tournaments saw the Crocs reach the Final - losing both times to United States. Schueller and his team will be looking to dethrone the champs.
Group A - Best result: 3rd place in 2010
Canada's nightmare at the Quarter-Finals ended in 2018, finally breaking through to return to the Semi-Finals after three straight losses in the top eight following their third place finish in 2010. Puerto Rico kept Canada from the podium four years ago and the Canadians are ready to finally reach the Final - and finish the job as well. The North Americans, who took bronze at the FIBA U16 Americas Championship 2021, had a late start to their training camp - meeting for the first time on June 19 - but head coach Patrick Tatham and his coaching staff will likely have a group of highly athletic players.
Canada could have a major height advantage as the 20-man training camp roster includes 7-foot-6 Olivier Rioux, the 6-foot-10 duo Stefan Jimenez-Vojnic and Christian Nitu and five more players 6-foot-7 or taller. Point guard Mikkel Tyne will have the experience of helping Canada just take bronze at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2022. Both Tyne and Keenan Emannuel stand just 5-foot-10 while Taj Au-Duke is 6-foot-3 to help the backcourt size a bit. Whatever the case on who arrives in Spain, Canada must be considered a challenger for the title.
Group B - Best result: 9th place in 2018
Dominican Republic are no strangers to the U17 World Cup with a third straight appearance. The Central Americans will have three double-digit scorers back from the FIBA U16 Americas Championship 2021 team - Danny Carbuccia, Yeison Liberato and Rodrigo Aybar - as well as six of the top seven scorers. Liberato and Luis Diaz are both undersized but can protect the rim. The team will lack size in general with Diaz and Luis Bridgewater being the only players 6-foot-8 from the U16 Americas team - though they might have other additions with some size in Malaga.
The Dominicans' strength is their pressure defense and transition as they swiped 13.7 steals on the continental stage. Dominican Republic showed they can beat tough teams, defeating Puerto Rico and Brazil at U16 Americas and nearly knocking off Argentina in the Semi-Finals. The Dominicans will also be a balanced team with multiple players who can carry the scoring load as five different players led the team in scoring in their six games in the qualifiers. The FIBA Americas side will be very uncomfortable to face and thanks to that pesky defense can knock off any team.
Group D - Best result: 11th place in 2010
It will all be about the collective for Egypt, who have won just five of their 35 games in U17 World Cup history thus far. Coach Amr Abouelkhir won the FIBA U16 African Championship 2021 by getting help from every player - all 12 players played at least 14 minutes (none more than 23 minutes), scored at least 3.6 points (10 of them at least 7 points with none more than 10.3 ppg) and grabbed at least 2.1 rebounds (nine at least 3.5 boards).
Youssef Elghayesh had a solid 4.4-1.5 assist-turnover ratio and made 40 percent of his three-pointers at the continental event while Ahmed Abouelela and Adam Elmaraghy showed they can be rim protectors. Egypt will be hungry to show there is a good reason they are number one in Africa at the cadet level.
Group B - Best result: 14th place in 2014
Eight years ago, Japan had one dominant force in the country's only previous U17 World Cup appearance with Rui Hachimura leading the 2014 edition in scoring. Yuto Kawashima has a good chance of matching Hachimura's feat after an outstanding FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022, where Japan took home their first silver medal and Kawashima was MVP.
Japan goes as Kawashima goes, but Spanish head coach Alejandro Martinez's team is more than a one-man show. Point guard Suguru Ishiguchi does a great job setting up the offense and Eijiro Ogawa teams up with Kawashima as another sniper. Japan beat Philippines and New Zealand and there is no reason they cannot surprise other teams. And Martinez will only have to fine-tune the team after the recent games in Qatar.
Group C - Best result: First appearance
Lebanon will have zero pressure playing at their first U17 World Cup and that might be their biggest advantage. Rabih Francis' team will actually be in good form as they just made history by reaching the FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022 Semi-Finals and grabbing their first ticket to the global cadet tournament. Point guard Rayan Hachem is the leader of the team and he is a deadly sniper - shooting 50 percent from long range at U16 Asia while also possessing quick hands on defense.
Hachem also got a lot of help from Karl Chris Zamatta, who averaged a double-double points and rebounds as the 6-foot-8 center. Giorgio Azzi will be important in playmaking and outside shooting while Jean Paul El Shamee gives the team some inside help. Lebanon will be ready to pounce on anybody who underestimates them - just ask Korea, who lost to them in the Quarter-Finals and will watch Lebanon represent Asia in Spain.
Group A - Best result: 14th place in 2018
New Zealand are making back-to-back showings and head coach Darron Larsen has a solid group of players who will take the lessons they've learned from FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022 and be better in Malaga. New Zealand finished third but have two great weapons with tall wing Nic Book and 7-foot center Julius Halaifonua, who will both cause problems for opponents in Spain.
The team also has George Turner and Dante Matakatea who can hurt opponents from long range. And Hunter Trego is the main playmaker though Kaia Berridge can help out as well. If New Zealand can consistently hit their threes and Halaifonua and Book control the boards, they can beat anybody.
Group C - Best result: 1st place in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018
United States have taken the court 37 times in the history of the U17 World Cup and 37 times they have won the game - collecting all five titles in undefeated fashion. Only once has a team been closer than nine points. The Americans, who won the FIBA U16 Americas Championship 2021, always have a short training camp but the USA coaching staff will install a suffocating defense set out on forcing turnovers for easy points.
The key usually is to face the Americans early in the tournament while they are still getting to know one another as the USA teams have always gotten better over the course of the tournament. While the final roster is still up in the air, it will be clear that it includes some amazing athletes with fantastic scoring potential and outstanding depth with the 11th and 12th players likely being starters on many of the teams in the competition. It will once again be a major challenge to defeat USA for the first time and dethrone the five-time reigning champs.