What a time to be alive, right!? Summer is in full swing and with the Olympics hitting the same trajectory, we sit back and hope to enjoy the rewards that the various United States sports teams throw out onto the playing surfaces in Rio. While the senior basketball team had a minor scare against the Australian bunch earlier in the week, we decided to bring a different approach to assembling a team for international play. Instead of pulling from the full allotment of various prospects that are American bred, why not narrow things down and assemble a squad that is full of just members from the 2017 high school graduating class?
There is going to be enough star power to go around with those that have already garnered gold medals from prior events overseas, yet there will also be the need for specialist types that can also bring versatility to either end of the floor. Who might lead this crew as the head coach? We give the reins to John Carroll, the head coach at Northfield Mount Hermon.
The lead boss at the NEPSAC power has led his squad to seven straight Prep National Championships and also secured the NEPSAC title twice within the past five years. A tactician, a player’s coach, and a student of the game, NMH has oftentimes not had the elite talent compared to its other New England counterparts but Carroll and his staff have done yeomen’s work in the past in not only competing with the best, but also beating the tops of the top.
Lacking talent won’t be much of an issue for this unit but fitting guys into their specific roles and figuring out who the go-to guy might be, may be the hardest part of Carroll’s job. Regardless, what a fun and entertaining this bunch would be where the NMH head coach would have enough talent and assets to go around that would enable for a gold medal run.
TROY BROWN, SG/SF, LAS VEGAS PROSPECTS
He won’t be relied upon for his scoring abilities but rather his unbelievable versatility and play making prowess whenever the game slows down. With shades of former international glue guy Andre Iguodala to him, Brown is someone that will be leaned upon for guarding the two through four in the half-court and remaining an active presence on the glass. He can lead the break off of the defensive rebound, make the proper pitch out off of the deck, and also score at the basket by way of his solid leaping abilities off of his left foot. He has already secured a gold medal with at the U17 FIBA level this past summer and brings a great pedigree and an egoless mentality that would be welcomed immediately.
WENDELL CARTER, C, TEAM CP3
We need some beef and muscle down low. Why not go with the most polished back to the basket center that we have seen within the past few years? Wendell Carter is a guy that, if the game does get close, we can settle things down and throw him the ball on the block and have our offense be run through him. He has an unbelievable set of counters in the post but what is the most underrated portion of the Peach State native’s game is how well he passes it out of the double team, of which could pulverize our international peers in finding he open perimeter shooter. Carter has improved his athleticism and body in recent months and is more than capable of playing in various lineups while getting the starting nod down low.
HAMIDOU DIALLO, SG, NEW RENS
Sure, he isn’t the best of jump shooters but that hasn’t hurt DeMar DeRozan from helping out during this year’s Olympic run in Rio. The bouncy and energizing wing would be relied upon for his elite athleticism at the basket and his unbelievable production whenever the game speeds up. A high character kid that loves to compete, Diallo will bring an edge to the squad along with the ability to defend either wing position on the floor. The New Yorker flourished at times during U18 play last month in Chile and could have a similar fate with this loaded bunch.
TREVON DUVAL, PG, WE R1
The top point guard prospect in his class, it is nearly impossible to leave Trevon Duval off of the list. While he has no background in international play, the Delaware native would be quite the dynamo on the break and as a play maker following the breakdown. He has the quickness and explosiveness to get wherever he wants with the basketball which would also help in contributing on the defensive end of the floor. His shot making skills from outside of 15-feet would be an issue but having guys like Trae Young and Michael Porter around him would offset the minor hiccup with the five-star guard.
JAREN JACKSON, PF, SPIECE INDY HEAT
One of the last additions to the squad, finding someone that can protect the basket, rebound the ball, and make perimeter jumpers is very, very difficult to find. Jaren Jackson is one of the few that can do just that as the 6-foot-9 power forward, who sports a 7-foot-4 wingspan, has had a breakthrough in recent time and was a fine piece in the U17 USA squad winning gold in Europe. During the Nike EYBL season, Jackson made 33 3-point jumpers off of nearly 40-percent shooting from the floor, while tossing in seven rebounds and nearly two blocks each time out. He won’t be a key cog to the squad but he will be a nice insurance policy for when we might need a guy that can shoot the basketball out of a frontcourt position but also protect his basket on the other end of the floor.
KEVIN KNOX, F, E1T1
Is there a better suited prospect in all of high school basketball for international ball than Kevin Knox? The 6-foot-8, bouncy and active forward, has some shades of former USA Olympian and Phoenix Suns star Shawn Marion. While Knox is already a better shooter than the former UNLV star, he is just as athletic and brings unlimited defensive skills where he can guard practically all three spots in the frontcourt at this time. A major weapon out on the break and a guy that can make shots from all three levels on the floor, Knox would be relied upon for his defensive versatility and energy levels as a producer whenever out on the break and when near the basket.
CHUMA OKEKE, F, GEORGIA STARS
One of the surprises of the bunch, Okeke is the perfect 3-4 man in international ball play. This team is already chock-full of stars where the Auburn commit is the ideal glue forward for this squad. Whether it is on the defensive end or the opposing side of the floor, Okeke can play either forward spot with efficiency not falling off at either position. He could be a death-lineup type of big man that plays a point-forward role from 17-feet and in as he has the passing skills and vision to pick apart the defense, yet the improved finishing skills in the lane and on the intermediate jumper that make him a difficult stop. Toss in his defensive prowess in guarding the block but also sitting down on the perimeter and the Westlake High product is the right call here in looking for a glue-type piece for when the proper situation presents itself.
MICHAEL PORTER, SF, MOKAN ELITE
Chemistry is so important on a team that is put together so quickly and due to Porter’s standing relationships with most of the squad by way of his travel ball and international career to date, he should fit in right from the start. He has great size at the small forward position and in smaller lineups, could be used as a stretch power forward that would create giant matchup issues on the hardwood. He can make shots with range from off the catch, hit on impressive turnaround jumpers from the mid-range, and is just a lethal pest on the offensive glass. He fits into the international way of playing like a glove and would be a dependable scoring weapon within the starting five.
MITCHELL ROBINSON, C, PRO SKILLS
It may be a bit difficult for Mitchell Robinson to score the basketball in international play outside of rim runs and put backs but this squad deeply needs a rim presence and a shot alterer in the lane. The Western Kentucky commit is just that and after leaded the entire Nike EYBL in blocked shots with over four per outing, Robinson might receive spot minutes but he would be used appropriately in allowing defenders such as Sexton and Diallo get after it and jump the passing lanes due to the big man’s secondary line abilities. He has some shades of Tyson Chandler to him and would be used appropriately in backing up Wendell Carter at the 5.
COLLIN SEXTON, G, SOUTHERN STAMPEDE
How could we lead off the biggest break out from this past spring and summer, a 6-foot-1 guard that was named the U17 World Championships MVP in Spain last June? While Sexton would be one of our go-to scorers on the squad, evidence via his 17 points per game average earlier this summer in Europe and record breaking numbers on the Nike EYBL circuit, the Pebblebrook High standout would also be looked upon for his improved play making skills out of high ball screen situations and further, his defensive skills in being the lock down guy on the ball. Sexton sports a +6 wingspan and some alpha-dog to him, assets that this bunch could use regardless of opponent. He needs be on this team and will be due to more than just his elite scoring, which tells just how far the Peach State native has come in recent months.
GARY TRENT JR, SG, HOWARD PULLEY
It is pretty evident that having a go-to scorer that can convert from all three levels on the floor and is as sturdy as can be is a very important piece after watching Carmelo Anthony go off against the Aussies. Gary Trent is the closest thing to the former Syracuse one and done from within the high school ranks. Sure, he is a bit shorter than Melo but in past years, whenever his team needed a bucket, Trent was the guy up for the task. He has bought more into the defensive end but it his scoring abilities from deep, the mid-range, and on the low-block that make the Minnesota native a must for this squad.
TRAE YOUNG, PG, MOKAN ELITE
It would be hard to pass on Trae Young for such a team. While he can be a bit inefficient at times, it seems that the five-star guard has turned the corner with his game, proof being his remarkable run to the championship at the Nike Peach Jam last month. Due to his ability to run an offense but also knock down jumpers that would extend the defense and open up driving lanes for some of the better athletes on this squad, Young is a very important piece of the puzzle, a guy that can facilitate, play make, and most of all, make shots whenever the chance is allotted to him.