The best of FIBA U17 WC 2018: Green on fire, historic France, Ballo a man-child and Sengun shines
MIES (Switzerland) - The main question going into the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018 was - just like every two years - can anybody beat the United States? And the answer to each of the past four editions has been no. This time around it was France who hoped to do the trick with a golden generation, but in the end the Americans rolled to another undefeated title.
France would reach the Final and take home their first medal while the tournament also featured Puerto Rico pulling off some magic to the detriment of Canada; Mali laid an important foundation for future youth global magic; and a young Alperen Sengun was sensational for Turkey.
The best team: USA
USA went into the tournament ablaze with a 78-point win over China to start and never slowed down. Their "closest" game was a 32-point drubbing of Serbia in the final Group Phase game, then they coasted in the Knockout Phase with victories by 43, 74, 49 and 43 points - the latter in the Final over France. While United States improved to 37-0 all time in the U17 World Cup, France claimed their first medal and then Puerto Rico down Canada for bronze - their first time standing on the podium as well.
The best video: re-watch the Final between USA and France
France went into the game with high hopes of having two future NBA guards in Killian Hayes and Theo Maledon. But the United States led 23-14 after 10 minutes and the score was already 45-25 at halftime.
The best players: Jalen Green MVP
MVP Jalen Green
Jalen Green not only led the USA team in scoring - at 15.7 points per game - but he did so playing just 18.7 minutes per game, ranking fifth on the team. He also averaged 2.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 steals per contest. Green exploded for 27 points with 5 three-pointers against Croatia in the Quarter-Finals and then poured in 25 points in the Semi-Finals against Canada. Those performances - which reminded one of Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson because he got so hot so fast - were the key to giving Green the green light to win the Most Valuable Player award.
From left to right - Vernon Carey Jr. (USA), Killian Hayes (FRA), Jalen Green (USA), Andre Curbelo (PUR), Oumar Ballo (MLI)
Green was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammate Vernon Carey Jr, Killian Hayes from runners-up France, Andre Curbelo from bronze medallists Puerto Rico and second-leading scorer and top rebounder Oumar Ballo of Mali.
The best game: Mali vs Dominican Republic - Classification 9-12
You might be wondering why pick a 9-12 Classification Game as the best game - well this showdown between Mali and Dominican Republic went to triple overtime and had some absolutely amazing individual performances by some future stars. David Jones collected 39 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals in Dominican Republic's 110-108 win and Jean Montero added 33 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 steals. At the other end, Oumar Ballo had 32 points and 32 rebounds in the loss for Mali.
The best performance: Oumar Ballo - Mali vs Dominican Republic
Oumar Ballo Set a new rebound record vs Dominican Republic
Oumar Ballo was like a man among boys throughout the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018, but that seemed especially the case against Dominican Republic. The Mali big man led the team with 32 points - on 12-of-19 shooting and 8-of-14 free throws - while he grabbed 32 rebounds, setting a new U17 World Cup record. On top of that he chipped in 1 assist, 1 steal and 2 blocks for an efficiency of 53.
Not so fast: Puerto Rico trip up Canada for bronze
Canada finally had gotten over their curse of bowing out in the Quarter-Finals - where they were bounced the previous three editions - and the North Americans were thinking of finally adding another medal to bronze from 2010. A loss to United States in the Semi-Finals wasn't unexpected but Canada thought it still would grab a spot on the podium as they were facing Puerto Rico in the bronze medal game. Puerto Rico, however, were not ready to just hand them the medal and outplayed Canada in the second half for a 90-77 victory - thanks to 24 points and 11 rebounds from Jermaine Miranda while Tory San Antonio scored 23 points
Ballo, Kanoute set framework for U19 World Cup Mali magic
Mali may have only finished 12th in the tournament but the event in Argentina also in essence laid the foundation of what would become absolute magic the next summer at the the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019. Siriman Kanoute led the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018 in scoring at 24.6 points per game while Oumar Ballo earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team because he was second in scoring at 20.6 points per game and led the competition in rebounding at 16.9 rebounds per game. Those two would team up the next summer and help guide Mali to second place at the U19 World Cup - the greatest basketball achievement on the global stage for an African nation.
The hidden star: Sengun shines for Turkey
Alperen Sengun showing Turkey the way at FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018
Turkey came into the tournament having finished second in 2016 and were hoping for more hardware. A loss to France in the Quarter-Finals meant the best the Turks could do was fifth place, which is exactly where they ended up - thanks in large part to a player one year younger than the rest of the competition and who would soon become a major star. Alperen Sengun collected 12 points and 9 rebounds in the first game of the tournament against Puerto Rico and never slowed down - registering four double-doubles, including 26 points and 17 rebounds against France in the aforementioned Quarter-Finals. Sengun, who played for Turkey's senior national team at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament and had a solid debut in the NBA in 2021-22, ended up averaging 15.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game and shooting 58 percent from the field.
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If you liked this content, please make sure to check out the reviews of previous FIBA U17 Basketball World Cups: