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July 2022
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The best of FIBA U17 WC 2012: Duke 2015 NCAA champs, the Exum-Simmons dream and Super Mario

MIES (Switzerland) - The United States went to Lithuania in the summer of 2012 looking to defend their first FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup title and the Americans were never really challenged. There were plenty of storylines to come out of Kaunas, including the dominance of a trio of future NCAA champion teammates at Duke; what-if australian thoughts about Dante Exum and Ben Simmons; and the early stage of "Super Mario" - Mario Hezonja.

The best team: USA

Rank Team W-L
1. USA USA 8-0
2. AUS Australia 6-2
3. CRO Croatia 7-1
4. ESP Spain 4-4
5. CAN Canada 5-3
6.  ARG Argentina 4-4 
7. CHN China 4-4 
8. CZE Czech Republic 2-6
9. LTU Lithuania 3-4 
10. FRA France 2-5 
11. KOR Korea 1-6 
12.  EGY Egypt 0-7 

The Americans came into the tournament with a perfect record in the competition's history and perfection was still in place by the time they hoisted a second trophy. United States averaged a winning margin of 39.9 points in the eight games with the closest game coming on Day 1 with a 22-point win over Australia  - the same team they would roll past in the Final by 33 points - 95-62. Croatia lost only once in the tournament - in the Semi-Finals against Australia - and ended up getting third place to at least go home with a medal.

The best video: re-watch the Semi-Final between Australia and Croatia

The best players: MVP and All-Tournament Team

Jahlil Okafor was named the MVP of the tournament

Jahlil Okafor was truly a man among boys in Lithuania, not only because of his size and mass but also with foundational big man skills that some coaches in Kaunas said could play at that time in the NBA already. Okafor averaged 13.6 points on nearly 60 percent shooting and 8.2 rebounds - 4.1 of those offensive boards - in fewer than 14 minutes per game. Okafor, who collected 17 points and 8 rebounds in 20 minutes in the Final against Australia, was second in scoring and rebounding on the loaded USA team that produced eight future NBA players.

From left to right - Okafor, Gabriel Deck (ARG), Justise Winslow (USA), Mario Hezonja (CRO), Dante Exum (AUS) 

Okafor was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammate Justise Winslow, Dante Exum from runners-up Australia, Mario Hezonja from bronze medallists Croatia and Argentina's Gabriel Deck.

Okafor, Winslow, Jones win NCAA title with Duke

The 2012 U17 World Cup crown was just the first that the future NBA trio of Okafor, Winslow and point guard Tyus Jones would win together. They re-united for the 2014-15 season and carried Duke to the 2015 NCAA championship - the last time the Blue Devils claimed the trophy.

The best game: Australia vs Croatia - Semi-Finals

This showdown of basketball powers had almost everything you could want - two great teams with plenty of star power, great individual performances, spectacular highlights and of course plenty at stake with the winner to reach the Final. You can find the full-game video at the top of this feature. Croatia had built up an eight-point lead in the second quarter but then Mirko Djeric drained four three-pointers in a 19-4 close to the first half. Dante Exum took over in the second half for Australia and nothing that Mario Hezonja could do for Croatia ended up being enough as Australia won 83-71. Djeric ended with 21 points on 7 three-pointers and 9 assists and Exum had 18 points while Hezonja poured in 28 points in the loss as he showed why he earned the nickname "Super Mario".

The best performance:  Heo Hoon - Korea vs Lithuania

Korea went into their second group game as real underdogs to hosts Lithuania, but Hoon Heo would have none of it. The future Korean senior national team player drained 4 three-pointers in scoring a tournament-high 37 points on 11-of-22 shooting besides collecting 3 rebounds, 8 assists and 7 steals. But all of that production was not enough - though Lithuania needed overtime to beat Korea 119-108. 

The hidden star: Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons was a year younger than the rest of the competition - just a couple weeks shy of his 16th birthday - but his potential could be seen - especially in two games. The baby-faced future NBA star collected 26 points, 10 rebounds and 5 steals against Czech Republic and followed that up with 13 points and 14 rebounds against Egypt. After playing 77 minutes in those two games, Simmons totaled just 46 minutes in the final four games, picking up 19 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. For the tournament, Simmons averaged 9.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 assist. It remains the only time Simmons has played for Australia save for two games against New Zealand in the FIBA Oceania Championship 2013. Simmons has yet to team up again for Australia with Exum, who himself has only played for the Boomers at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014 and 2020 Olympics leaving many Australia fans wondering what-if.

Solid last placed team - Egypt

Current Egyptian senior national team leader Ehab Saleh going against Ben Simmons

Egypt may have finished in last place at 12th with eight losses in eight games, but they represented their continent bravely in a couple of fights with a team that produced two future senior national team leaders in Ehab Saleh and Anas Mahmoud. In Group Phase action, Egypt had eventual silver medalists Australia on the ropes with a five-point lead with 2 minutes left, but the Oceania powers forced overtime and needed a second extra session where they reeled off 15 straight points for an 88-73 2OT win. Egypt also gave Lithuania all it could handle with a 73-72 defeat in the 9-12 classification round. 

Stats leaders

Player Points Per Game
ARG Gabriel Deck 21.5
CRO Mario Hezonja 20.8
KOR Hoon Heo 17.7
AUS Dante Exum 17.3
LTU Edvinas Seskus 15.7
EGY Ehab Amin 15.7
Player Rebounds Per Game
CHN Qi Zhou 10.1
CRO Karlo Zganec 9.0
LTU Evinas Seskus 9.0
USA Justise Winslow 8.8
CZE Martin Peterka 8.6
Player Assists Per Game
CZE Radovan Kouril 9.6
AUS Mirko Djeric 5.6
USA Tyus Jones 5.4
ARG Alvaro Merlo 5.1
CRO Paolo Marinelli 4.4

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