Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
The United States and Canada both rolled to victory in their FIBA U19 World Cup openers on Saturday in Cairo, Egypt.
The U.S. crushed Iran, 108-48, with five players in double-figures.
Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo (17), Purdue’s Carsen Edwards (15), UNLV’s Brandon McCoy (14, 10 rebounds), uncommitted senior Cam Reddish (14), and Kentucky’s P.J. Washington (13) scored in double figures. Hudson Catholic and Team Final senior Louis King added nine points and seven boards.
Diallo, who did not play at all at Kentucky during his one semester and then tested the NBA waters before returning to campus, is getting some much needed game action heading into a full year at Kentucky.
“Every game you’re going to face some adversity, you just have to overcome it,” said Diallo, who last played organized games in December at Putnam Science Academy (CT). “In the first half our starters didn’t play as well but the bench picked it up and gave us the spark we needed. That’s the type of team that we are, we can all do it.”
“Even in these kind of events, NCAA events, FIBA events, the first game is the hardest to get started and get your feet underneath you,” said USA U19 head coach John Calipari of Kentucky. “Even though we had a couple of exhibition games and both opponents were pretty good, we came out like ‘what in the world?’ We almost went a quarter, well we went six minutes, having four points and how in the world we scored that many… But eventually we’re going to wear people down.
“Now the question is when we get one of the good teams later in the week, will we start better, will we play better, will we have some fire? But I thought they got it, and they played and they’re trying. It’s just hard, we’ve been together eight days, come on. It makes it tough, but hopefully we’ll continue to get better.”
Meantime, Canada defeated Mali 91-42 behind R.J. Barrett’s 20 points and 11 rebounds while Oregon-bound Abu Kigab added 16 points and 7 rebounds. Nate Darling chipped in with 14 points to help lead a balanced attack.
The U.S. plays Angola on Sunday, while Canada plays Spain.
“Great way to start the World Cup on Canada Day with a good win,” Canadian coach Roy Rana said. “We were able to play everyone and everyone made positive contributions. Looking forward to a much tougher test against world power Spain tomorrow.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.