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.
USA Wins U19 Gold For Just Second Time Since 1991; Arizona’s Gordon Named MVP of World Championship
The United States won gold in the FIBA U19 World Championship for just the second time since 1991.
Coached by Florida’s Billy Donovan, the Americans beat Serbia, 82-68 in the final in Prague behind 17 points, four rebounds and four blocks from Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell. Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss added 15 points, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon had 12 and team captain Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State chipped in with 11.
Incoming Arizona forward Aaron Gordon was named MVP of the tournament and Chicago Whitney Young senior forward Jahlil Okafor joined him on the all-tournament team.
Gordon led all USA players with averages of 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He ranked second on the team in blocks (1.0), third in steals (2.0) and fifth in assists (1.9).
The 6-10 Okafor has now won gold in the U16, U17 and U19 events.
“This team right here is looking to change that and making a trend of going over there and dominating the 19-and-under,” Smart told SNY.tv before the event in reference to the USA’s struggles in the age category.
The USA rebounded from going without a medal at the 2011 edition of the tournament to clinch an undefeated gold for the fourth time. They did so in 1979, 1991 and 2009.
It is the Americans’ record fifth U19 World Championship title.
Serbia clinched silver for the second straight tournament, having lost to Lithuania in the 2011 Final in Latvia.
Jovan Novak had a game-high 21 points for Serbia, while Vasilje Micic finished with 13 points and handed out 10 assists.
Serbia jumped out to a 9-4 lead before Sulaimon nailed a triple to start a 9-0 USA run. Novak and Micic would knock down three-pointers to push Serbia back ahead 18-15.
Treys by Williams-Goss and Sulaimon would give the Americans back the lead 26-20 with the margin being 26-22 after one quarter.
Another Novak long ball got Serbia within 28-27 before the Americans streaked out to a 36-29 cushion.
Serbia would not go away with Nikola Jokic hitting two inside baskets and a three-pointer to keep the Europeans within 40-38 at the break.
Serbia continued to dominate the tempo of the game, not allowing the Americans to get out and run. USA did pull out to a 46-41 lead, but Jokic and Mihajlo Andric hit triples to cut the gap to 48-47.
A 7-0 run gave Team USA their biggest lead of the game to that point at 55-47, which Serbia would trim back to 57-51 after three quarters.
Novak started the fourth with a triple but the Americans went on a 13-1 surge for a 70-54 advantage with seven minutes left to decide the game.
(FIBA contributed reporting)
**For more coverage of the USA U19 and U16 teams, click here.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.