Two years ago, the Americans took home the bronze. Last month, the US took fifth place at the FIBA U-19 World Championships. Purdue head coach Matt Painter is well-aware of the high expectations for his US squad to buck the losing trend in the World University Games taking place in China in the next two weeks.
Painter will be assisted by Butler coach Brad Stevens and Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin, but none of their own players made the 12-man roster. Here's a breakdown of the team:
Strengths: Perimeter shooting- 5 players on this roster (Abromaitis, Denmon, Jenkins, Johnson, Miller) all shot better than 40 percent from behind the arc last season, Versatility- many of the guards have experience playing both backcourt positions, while the forwards have the ability to step outside and knock down mid-range jumpers at the least, Experience- of the 12 players on the roster, 10 are seniors
Weaknesses: Post play- the team's three true power forwards (Mangano, Mbakwe, JaMychal Green) are not consistent threats to score from the low blocks or much at all offensively
Marcus Denmon, Missouri
The US backcourt is comprised of extremely talented offensive players, starting with Denmon. He is an excellent perimeter shooter, knocking down 44.8 percent of his 183 3-point attempts last season and as a ball-handler, he turned the ball over just 32 times in 34 games, the best turnover rate in the country. His former-coach at Missouri, Mike Anderson, speaks wonders about Denmon's energy, motor and leadership.
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
Gibbs was one of the starting guards from the U-19 gold medal-winning team a few years ago and his floor leadership and shooting will be counted on heavily for this US squad. Gibbs' future as an NBA guard is cloudy, but his deep range and ability to move without the ball makes him the most important piece to the team. Gibbs had the 17th best offensive rating in the entire country last season in large part due to his 49 percent shooting from 3-point range and a true shooting percentage of 64.3.
Scoop Jardine, Syracuse
Jardine is an experienced guard who played a major role for the Orange last season by using a plethora of their possessions as their primary ball-handler and distributor (assist rate was 30th in the country). As electrifying as Jardine can be offensively, he is a solid presence defensively with his quick hands and feet allowing him to pick the pockets of opposing guards, but also stay out of foul trouble. His below-average foul shooting will surely keep him off the floor at the end of games.
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
If Jenkins lines up next to Gibbs in the backcourt, opponents be wary; Jenkins is just as dangerous as Gibbs from the perimeter, both off-the-dribble and as a spot up shooter on the wing. His ball-handling is not as advanced so he won't earn as many minutes as Gibbs who can play the 1 or the 2, but he is a lethal shooter (40.8 percent from 3-point range, 64 percent true-shooting mark).
Orlando Johnson, UCSB
Johnson is a length, athletic guard who can score the basketball in a variety of ways- almost all of which make him the most versatile guard on this team and one of the best in the country. He shot over 40 percent from behind the arc last season, but can also slash through the lane, post-up or pull-up and score the bucket. It's a smart decision to put the ball in his hands so he can create, not just for himself, but for others as well (assist rate of 24.2) and get to the foul line (6.1 fouls drawn per 40 minutes).
Ray McCallum, Detroit
The rising-sophomore had offers from almost every major college, but chose to stay right at home and play for his father with the Titans. He was one of their last to make the team, but McCallum can play either guard spot and will have more of a role as a defensive specialist as opposed to coming in and running the offense.
Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame
As most of Notre Dame's starters have departed, including Ben Hansbrough, Abromaitis will become a national figure this season. He is a clutch offensive player standing at 6'8" with the ability to post up smaller defenders or knock down mid-range shots, but Abromaitis' biggest contributions will come as he stretches the floor and knocks down deep 3-point buckers.
Draymond Green, Michigan State
Green may be the most versatile frontcourt player in the nation with his perimeter-oriented skills, but willingness to mix it up down low. He can handle the ball on the perimeter, run his team's offense, knock down jumpers with plenty of range, defend some 2s and 3s, as well as 4s, and will be amongst this team's better rebounders.
JaMychal Green, Alabama
Very talented, Green will need to step up his scoring in the low blocks as he is one of maybe two players who will be fed the ball in the post. Whether he takes the shot or one of his teammates, Green is a game-changing offensive rebounder and loves to play a physical style of basketball and can finish with contact and get to the foul line. Defensively, Green fits right in to Matt Painter's style and should alter/block many shots as an interior presence.
Greg Mangano, Yale
An Ivy Leaguer on the roster? Mangano made the team given his size (6'10", 240 pounds) and defensive abilities. His name is one you will become much more familiar this season as he was one of the top five best defensive rebounders in the country as a junior and few blocked as many shots as he did. Mangano will not step outside his role, which should help him complement the other scorers on this roster.
Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
Mbakwe is certain to impact each and every game given his athleticism, energy and motor. He has the ability to defend some perimeter players, but most of all, Mbakwe will be a stud rebounder for the US squad. Offensively, he makes a living around the rim with his physical brand of basketball, gathering a ton of second-chance points and drawing plenty of fouls.
Darius Miller, Kentucky
Along with Gibbs, Miller was the only other player on the U-19 gold-medal winning team and offers a terrific amount of versatility to allow Painter and the coaching staff to play a number of different ways. He can play shooting guard and give the team a bigger lineup, or he can play the 3 or 4 as the team looks to go smaller and quicker. He never really takes a bad shot and has drastically improved his perimeter shooting over his three years in Kentucky.