The U17 USA team went to Malaga, Spain and faced a raucous home crowd and a formidable Spanish opponent in the final but was able to keep the game close and pull away in the final quarter to bring home gold. Here is a look at the top prospects for the USA team.
1. Cooper Flagg 6’7 Forward 2006 Born
Flagg wowed the international viewers at this tournament and probably would have been voted MVP of the event had it not been played in Spain. He was a menace both on offense and defense for team USA. With his long arms, he was one of only two players to be top 5 in steals, rebounds, and block shots (Polish player Syzmon Nowicki the other) while anchoring the defense for team USA and often times guarding their opponents’ best post player. He’s a very fluid player both laterally and on the open court. On offense he took what the offense gave him, shooting a solid percentage from the field and the free throw line while sprinkling the occasional three. A younger player in the tournament still needs to get stronger but his intangibles are through the roof. A very team oriented guy, who gives his all on the floor and with a solid understanding of the game. It’s early but he has an overachiever mentality that scouts and organizations seek out to match his advanced skill set. A very impressive showing, and he is also younger than many of the players participating.
2. Ian Jackson 6’7 Wing 2005 Born
Jackson, has the premium tool that the league is looking for: outside shooting. His metrics were great in this tournament: 9/20 from 3 in 7 games and 54.5% from the field. He also showed burst to get by opponents and strong athleticism with some powerful dunks throughout the tournament. He has solid handles despite only shooting 2 free throws all tournament (probably because team USA was so dominant throughout the event). He averaged 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio and was able to get in the passing lanes and get some steals. On the negative side as his tournament progressed his production decreased culminating with a poor finals performance versus Spain where he only played 7 minutes and did not score.
3. Ron Holland 6’9 Forward 2005 Born
Holland was a solid player throughout the tournament showing some advanced handles and outside shooting for a player his size. He can easily self create when facing up and has range beyond the 3 point arc (42.1%). For a player his age and caliber, he is really advanced in taking charges on defense but disappears at times on that end of the floor. With his agility, you would expect more than 5 steals and 4 blocks in 7 games at this level of competition. Perhaps getting stronger would lead him to be more physical on the defensive end of the floor. All in all he should have been in FIBA’s top 5 IMO but I understand why he wasn’t. There was an incident at the end of the gold medal game where he took an unnecessary elbow from a Spanish player. There was a high probability that Holland wasn’t going to let that go.This led to a brief altercation in the last moments of the game instead of focusing on the celebration of winning the gold medal for team USA. I mention this only because incidents like this make scouts question maturity and to remind players that scouts are watching everything.
4. Koa Peat 6’7 Forward 2007 Born
The youngest player for Team USA and one of the youngest players overall. Peat was a high flying energy guy in this tournament who was often used as an undersized 4/5 at this event. He is strong for his age and loves to run a fast break or baseline in the half court. He doesn’t mind playing against taller players or getting physical. The next step as he evolves is to demonstrate improvement in his outside game. He shot only 10/22 from the free throw line (45.5%) and 1/5 from 3.
5. Johnual Fland 6’3 point guard 2006 Born
Early on he looked like the best point guard on team USA. He possess freaky NBA level athleticism. Fland came off the bench thus had a very limited role as the tournament progressed to the knockout stage. Demonstrated good playmaking skills with his 3.6 assist to 0.4 turnovers average per game. Averaged 2.1 steals in 12 minutes per game. His shooting numbers looked solid but with such a small sample size it is difficult to take much from it. Played 8 total minutes in the last two games of the tournament
6. DJ Wagner 6″3 Combo Guard 2005 Born
Probably the biggest name coming into the event, Wagner had a very inconsistent tournament. He had less steals and less assists than Fland while playing 8 more minutes per game. On the positive side, he did work on his playmaking skills, averaging 1.82 ast/ TO. Wagner showed some strong athleticism at times with a highlight dunk on the fast break but tended to try to cross people up and take a mid range shot instead of driving to the hole and finishing with either a floater or dunk/ layup. While his free throw numbers were solid, his FG% suffered as he shot poorly from 3 while taking roughly one out of three shots from beyond the arc. Wagner played far from the top ranked senior in the country, but perhaps some of that was due to the adjustment to FIBA rules or the time change in any case let’s consider this tournament an outlier for him.
7. Karter Knox 6’5 SF/SG 2005 Born
Knox with his long wingspan was able to put some powerful dunks at the FIBA U17 in Malaga. He has some solid rebounding numbers for a wing and has a strong frame. Needs to continue to work on his handles and expand his range. Has good touch within 10 feet but needs to improve his free throw numbers (56%) and range beyond the arc.
8. Sean Stewart 6’8 Power Forward 2005 Born
Stewart is a solid though undersized interior player with bigtime explosiveness. The Duke recruit had strong rebounding numbers and strong field goal percentage as most of his shots were taken around the rim. Shot well from the charity stripe but will need to expand his range beyond the arc to get to the next level.
9. Jeremy Fears 6’1 Point Guard 2005 Born
Fears led team USA in assists. Had solid shooting metrics and form. By the single elimination stages of the tournament he had taken over primary ball handling duties for team USA.