Who are the 'Elite Eight' (and one!) from the past U17 World Cup that have been dancing in March Madness?
MALAGA (Spain) - Whenever the calendar switches to March, basketball junkies think of college hoops and the NCAA Tournament. With the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2022 draw having just taken place, it just seemed right to combine the two and list 8 players from the last U17 World Cup that have been playing in the NCAA Tournament this March.
One might even say it's a list of "Elite Eight".
However, there were actually a total of 9 players in this year's Tourney that played in the past U17 World Cup, so we cheated and this will be and "Elite Eight (and One) list instead. The number of players with FIBA experience in the NCAA Tournament definitely would have been higher had the U17 World Cup in 2020 not been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Still, through the lenses of where they are now in the NCAA Tournament, let's look back at some of the standouts from FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018. So … Here. We. Go.
Wendell Moore, Jr. - USA - Duke
Let's start with the two United States players - both of them on Duke and the only two players still in the running for the title. Moore was a solid part of the U17 World Cup 2018 championship team, averaging 8.4 points, 3.0 rebound and 2.3 assists in Argentina, topped by the 13 points and 7 rebounds in the Round of 16 win over Dominican Republic.
At Duke, Moore ranks second in scoring (13.5 points per game) while also picking up 5.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
Jeremy Roach - USA - Duke
Roach collected 6.4 points, 1.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per contest at the U17 World Cup, including 14 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals versus Dominican Republic. Roach is also a big part of the Duke team that reached the Final Four as he is averaging 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
Andre Curbelo - Puerto Rico - Illinois
The only other player in the NCAA Tournament with hardware from the U17 World Cup was Curbelo, who was the talisman of Puerto Rico's magical ride to bronze in Argentina. Curbelo tallied 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.9 steals in helping the country reach the podium for the first time in a FIBA world youth event.
Curbelo, who earned a spot on the U17 World Cup All-Tournament Team, averaged 7.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for Illinois this season. The team bowed out of the NCAA Tournament against Houston in the Round of 32.
Oumar Ballo - Mali - Arizona
Curbelo was joined on the U17 World Cup All-Tournament Team by a giant of a man in Ballo, who actually holds by far the biggest international standing of any of these players. Ballo was the carrying force who helped Mali clinch silver at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 - Africa's greatest result on the FIBA global stage.
But at the 2018 U17 World Cup, Ballo ranked second in scoring (20.6 points per game) and first in rebounds (16.9 per game) for a Mali team that finished 12th. The big man started his college career at Gonzaga and followed Tommy Lloyd to Arizona where this season Ballo collected 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.2 rebounds per game. Arizona were also ousted by Houston, losing in the Sweet 16.
Adama Sanogo - Mali - Connecticut
Sanogo was Ballo's Mali teammate at the U17 World Cup, where he picked up 6.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. Sanogo reached the NCAA Tournament this season with Connecticut and averaged 14.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks before the team was upset in the first round by New Mexico State.
Caleb Houstan - Canada - Michigan
Canada have been sending more and more players to colleges in the United States and one of the top players from Canada has been Houstan, who played in the NCAA Tournament with Michigan. He averaged 10.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game before Michigan lost in the Sweet 16 against Villanova.
Houstan was actually two years younger than the rest of the competition at the U17 World Cup in 2018, meaning he could have played in 2020 if the event had taken place. In Argentina, Houstan averaged 5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals per contest for a Canada team that lost to United States in the Semi-Finals and then Puerto Rico in the 3rd Place Game. Houstan also played at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021 and averaged 17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
Charles Bediako - Canada - Alabama
Canada had three players from their U17 World Cup team in the NCAA Tournament - the other two being Bediako and his Alabama teammate Keon Ambrose-Hylton. In Argentina, Bediako averaged 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds on the Canadian team that finished fourth.
The big man collected 6.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks this season for Alabama, who lost to higher seeded Notre Dame in the first round. In addition to playing at the U17 World Cup, Bediako also played at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in 2019 and 2021.
Keon Ambrose-Hylton - Canada - Alabama
Bediako's teammate in both the U17 World Cup and the Crimson Tide, Ambrose-Hylton averaged 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in the FIBA event and contributed 1.0 points and 0.8 rebounds this season in Alabama.
Isaiah Rivera - Dominican Republic - Colorado State
The other player with FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup experience in the NCAA Tournament was Rivera with Colorado State. The Dominican Republic guard averaged 3.4 points and 1.5 rebounds for the Rams team that was upset by Michigan (and Canadian Caleb Houstan) in the first round. At the U17 World Cup in 2018, Rivera averaged 10.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 steals.