Thursday, June 20, 2024

Kelso’s Tommy Lloyd leads USA Basketball to FIBA U18 AmeriCup gold medal

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Taking home the gold is almost a requirement of any USA Basketball coach, and Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd expressed no problem with it before heading to the U18 AmeriCup last week.

“I have the same pressure in my day job,” Lloyd said then.

So, even though the Americans received a scary flashback over the weekend to the last time they earned only a silver medal, they quickly shook it off.

Host Argentina, which beat USA in the 2008 verstion of what was then known as the U18 Americas Championship, jumped on USA 10-4 after three minutes in Sunday’s gold medal game before Lloyd’s Team USA quieted the home crowd.

The Americans ripped off eight straight points and, with AmeriCup MVP Darius Acuff scoring 10 of his game-high 26 points in the first quarter, they took a 24-23 lead at the end of the initial period.

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From there, Team USA stifled the Argentinians defensively while outscoring them by 15 points in the second quarter and 23 in the third quarter, eventually coasting to a 40-point romp.

Throughout the gold-medal game, USA pounded Argentina on both ends inside by hitting 62.5% from two-point range, then limited the host country to just 37.5% from two. USA also recorded 17 steals and six blocks.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Lloyd said in a USA Basketball statement. “I’m really proud of how they handled the situation, the adversity of this tournament. FIBA basketball is hard.”

Yet, most of the time, USA made it look easy. The Americans won all six AmeriCup games they played by an average of 42.7 points and, even if you throw out their 96-point cakewalk over Belize in a group-play game, they still averaged a 32.0-point victory margin in the other five games.

Acuff, a five-star class of 2025 point guard from Detroit now playing for IMG Academy, led USA in scoring with 17.8 points per game after dominating the championship game with 26 points, nine assists, six rebounds, and three steals.

Illinois-bound center Morez Johnson Jr. led USA in rebounding during the tournament with 9.0 per game while Ole Miss commit Mikel Brown of Overtime Elite led in assists with 5.2 per game.

Brown (10.3) was also one of four other USA players averaging in double digits, along with class of 2025 forward Trey McKenney (10.8), Alabama-bound forward Derrion Reed (10.3) and 2025 guard Jasper Johnson (10.0).

“I feel like everybody on this team had a moment or moments where they made a big difference,” Lloyd said.

The top-four finish qualified USA for the 2025 FIBA U19 World Cup, in which Lloyd is also scheduled to be the American’s head coach, along with Argentina, bronze-medal winner Canada and fourth-place Puerto Rico.

Lloyd said before the AmeriCup he was taking a “two-year approach” to his USA Basketball experience, and that he expected many of the same U18 players would be back for the tougher U19 competition in Switzerland next summer.

While Texas Tech’s Grant McCasland and Notre Dame’s Micah Shrewsberry served as USA’s assistant coaches, Lloyd was also joined in Argentina by fellow UA staffers Justin Kokoskie and Rem Bakamus. Kokoskie served as the team’s athletic trainer and Bakamus was a staff assistant.

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