- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Never fear, you basketball-loving, Dream Team-worshipping, blueblooded American, you: The United States is still producing the best basketball talent in the world.
Of course, you don't need me to tell you that. One glance at LeBron James should do the trick. Similarly, you most certainly didn't need the results of the U18 FIBA Americas -- which Team USA won handily Wednesday night -- to confirm this piece of information. But it is not enough to have the best players or to win the big international competitions. We like to know we're miles better than anyone else in the world.
As such, let's have a hearty cheer for the American teens charged with owning the under-18 division of 2012 FIBA Americas this week. That group -- which was coached by Florida's Billy Donovan and primarily featured top prep prospects such as Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Shaq Goodwin, with a dash of early-enrolled Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes for good measure -- did exactly that, finishing the tournament with an 81-56 win over Brazil, per a USA Basketball release. The team's final five-game average margin of victory: 38.6 points. USA! USA!
Team USA wasn't always dominant in the tournament, or even in the final; spurred on by a vocal crowd (haters!), Brazil cut the U.S. lead to as little as four in the first half. The United States led by just six at halftime, and could have been trailing had Brazil's U18 team shot better than 9-of-19 from the free throw line. But the U.S. pulled it together in the second half, racing out to an early third-quarter lead and never looking back. Randle finished with a double-double, and Donovan was pleased with the way the team coalesced in a short amount of time:
“I told our guys after that they’re the ones that made it all possible. There was a lot of sacrifice. We had a lot of good players and I think they all understood that they all could probably score more, they all could probably do more, but maybe it wouldn’t be the best thing for our team. I was just really proud of the way they sacrificed for one another, they sacrificed for our country and they really wanted to win,” Donovan said in a release.
Teamwork, skill and domination: These are the baseline expectations for any Team USA basketball player, from the Dream Team to the Redeem Team to the Teen Team (working title!) on down. The quality of high school-age basketball in the other Americas notwithstanding, it's good to hear even the youngest members of USA Basketball are gauging themselves on a universally high standard. Now, about that Olympics gold medal ...