USA U21 Men's World Championship Team Finishes Summer With 11-1 Slate
Despite not accomplishing its goal of defending the USA's gold medal at the 2005 FIBA U21 World Championship, the 2005 USA U21 National Team posted a pair of victories against eventual gold medalist Lithuania, compiled an overall 11-1 record, and finished among the top performers in most major statistical categories at the U21 Worlds, held Aug. 5-14 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Additionally, the U.S. team tied Lithuania as having the best record in the tournament at 7-1.
The U.S., which rolled through preliminary round play unscathed with a 5-0 record, fell in a must-win quarterfinals game against Canada. Losing 93-90 in overtime relegated the United States to playing for fifth place, while Canada advanced to the medal semifinals. The USA rebounded and came back the next night to take a 99-79 victory over Puerto Rico and closed the competition with a 111-85 downing of host Argentina in the fifth place game. Lithuania, which also finished with a 7-1 record, took the gold medal with a down-to-the-wire 65-63 victory over Greece, while Canada earned bronze by virtue of a 79-74 win over Australia.
Prior to the U21 Worlds, the U.S. team captured the 2005 Global Games gold medal with a 4-0 record, including a 91-86 victory over Lithuania, July 27-30 in Frisco, Texas.
"(The fifth place finish was) absolutely not a failure," remarked USA and Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli following the USA's final game. "It was a disappointment that will linger with me because I feel like I've let the USA down in not putting these guys in position, for that one game, to win the gold medal. But certainly not (a failure) because A: we've been treated remarkably well by the people here. These young guys have been terrific on and off the court, they've done everything we've asked them to do. We just came up one game short of maximum effort."
Acting as Martelli's assistants were collegiate head coaches Dennis Felton from the University of Georgia and Bruiser Flint from Drexel University (Pa.).
The U.S. team included some of the nation's top athletes aged 21-and-younger, including Mardy Collins (Temple / Philadelphia, Pa.); Glen Davis (Louisiana State / Baton Rouge, La.); Nick Fazekas (Nevada / Arvada, Colo.); Rudy Gay (Connecticut / Baltimore, Md.); Justin Gray (Wake Forest / Charlotte, N.C.); Taj Gray (Oklahoma / Wichita, Kan.); Allan Ray (Villanova / Bronx, N.Y.); J.J. Redick (Duke / Roanoke, Va.); Terrence Roberts (Syracuse / Jersey City, N.J.); Rajon Rondo (Kentucky / Louisville, Ky.) and Marcus Williams (Connecticut / Los Angeles, Calif.) and Curtis Withers (Charlotte / Charlotte, N.C.).
"I would most definitely come back and play again," said Justin Gray, who won a gold medal with the 2004 USA U20 Tournament of the Americas team. "It's a blessing and an opportunity just to have the chance to try out. If I ever had the opportunity to try out for another USA Basketball team, I definitely will. Win or lose, you can always make it into a positive experience. It's what you make it. Even though we had that loss, we bounced back to get the final two wins. Everybody stepped up and played well in our final two games. I'm proud of everybody and I'm just thankful for the opportunity."
The USA's 101.1 ppg. scoring average was well-distributed among the 12 team members as six averaged in double digits and an additional three scored no less than 7.0 ppg. each. Ray led the way (12.3 ppg.), followed by Justin Gray (11.8 ppg.), Rondo (11.0 ppg.), Redick (10.8 ppg.), Gay (10.5 ppg.) and Withers (10.3 ppg.). Fazekas (6.6 rpg.) and Withers (6.3 rpg.) paced the squad on the glass; Rondo passed off for a team best 4.5 apg., and Williams dished out 4.1 apg.; while Rondo's 27 steals (3.4 spg.) not only led the team but set a new USA U21 record.
This year's squad peppered their names throughout the USA U21 record books. In addition to Rondo's 27 steals overall for a new competition record, he doubled the previous single-game steals record after nabbing eight versus China and tied the record for most field goals made with nine versus Nigeria. Redick eclipsed the previous record of a perfect 6-of-6 from the line with 8-of-8 made against Canada; Allan Ray went a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point land to go on top of that category; and Redick twice connected on six 3-pointers, tying the previous record for 3-point attempts. Further, Gay's 12 blocked shots surpassed the previous USA U21 tournament record of eight.
Among all tournament leaders, four players landed among the top 30 in scoring, including Ray (23rd), Justin Gray (27th), Rondo (29th) and Redick (30th). Rondo's 65.5 percent accuracy from the field ranked No. 1 among all competitors and Ray was fourth at 55.6 percent. Additionally, Redick listed second for free throw percentage (.913); Ray was first (.621) and Redick sixth (.447) for 3-point percentage; Gay finished No. 6 for blocked shots (1.5 bpg.); Fazekas was eighth in rebounding, Withers finished 13th and Gay (5.5 rpg.) was 17th; Rondo and Williams finished second and fourth, respectively, among assist leaders; Rondo topped the tournament's best for steals, while Collins (1.6 spg.) ranked 12th; Justin Gray (2.9), Ray (2.3) and Redick (2.1) were ranked first, seventh and 11th, respectively for 3-point field goals made per game; while Rondo (2.57) and Williams (2.20) finished No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, for assist-to-turnover ratio.
As a unit, the U.S. squad ranked No. 1 among the 11-team field for scoring offense (101.1), scoring margin (+22.9), rebounding offense per game (42.8), turnover margin (+9.00), offensive rebounds per game (16.5), 3-point field goals made per game (9.88), defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.262), steals per game (15.13) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.30). Additionally, the USA ranked second for rebounding margin per game (+6.5), assists per game (17.5) and defensive rebounds per game (26.3); while ranking third for field goal percentage (.457) and 3-point field goal percentage (.361).