As some angst grows as to whether injuries are going to hurt the United States Olympics basketball team, the nation's younger stars left no doubt as to their worthiness by running roughshod over the rest of the world this summer.
The U.S. U18 national team blitzed the field in winning the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The United States whipped Brazil 81-56 to win gold. The team averaged 97.2 points per game during the five-game championship round and won its matchups by 38.6 points per game. The U.S. U17 national team went 8-0 and routed Australia 95-62 to win the gold in the FIBA U17 World Championship.
With one exception, the players on those teams haven't played any college ball. The exception is Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes, on the U18 team. Stokes, who will be a sophomore for the Vols next season, reclassified during his junior year of high school and joined the Vols as a freshman in December.
Stokes was the No. 2 scorer (14.0 ppg) and rebounder (5.6 rpg) on the U18 team. The leading scorer and rebounder was Julius Randle, a forward from Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian who is the No. 2 recruit in the 2013 class; Randle averaged 14.2 points and 6.6 rebounds.
The U17 team was led in scoring by Conner Frankamp, a guard from Wichita (Kan.) North who averaged 14.1 points per game and shot 55.7 percent from the floor and 45.2 percent from 3-point range. Frankamp, the No. 28 player in the 2013 class, has committed to Kansas. Chicago Whitney Young center Jahlil Okafor, the No. 2 prospect in the 2014 class, and Chicago Simeon forward Jabari Parker, the No. 1 prospect in the 2013 class, were the No. 2 and 3 scorers, respectively, on the U17 team. Also turning in a solid performance was Houston St. Johns forward Justise Winslow, the No. 8 recruit in the 2014 class, who averaged 9.9 points and a team-leading 8.8 rebounds despite being just 6 feet 5; he also led the team in steals and was tied for the lead in blocks.
Another player on the U17 team was forward Stephen Domingo, from San Francisco St. Ignatius, who had been the No. 30 prospect in the Class of 2013. We said "had been" because it was announced early this week that he will graduate early, skip his senior year of high school and enroll at Georgetown next month; he will be eligible for the 2012-13 season. Domingo, who started six games for the team, averaged 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds. He was tied with Frankamp for most 3-pointers, with 14. He just turned 17.
• The Boston Herald reported this week that incoming Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel, the No. 2 player in the 2012 recruiting class, was attending summer school to become eligible academically. Noel is taking summer school classes at Everett (Mass.) High, his original high school. He left Everett for The Tilton School in Tilton, N.H., last year. Noel originally was a class of 2013 student, but reclassified earlier this year.
• Iowa and USF rewarded coaches Fran McCaffrey and Stan Heath, respectively, with contract extensions in the past week. McCaffrey, who is 29-37 in two seasons at Iowa, received a seven-year extension. Heath, who is 70-87 in five seasons at USF and guided the Bulls to the third round of the NCAA tournament last season, got a six-year extension. That's quite the hefty extension for a guy who has won just 34 percent of his Big East contests (29-57, with 12 of those wins coming last season).
• Melvin Johnson was Miami's top recruit in the most recent recruiting class; he was a four-star signee and the No. 99 recruit in the nation. But Johnson, from Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's Prep, was granted a release from his scholarship this week. His mom told the New York Post her son was leaving "because of circumstances beyond our control." She did tell the newspaper her son was fine academically. Miami has a deep backcourt and likely won't miss Johnson next season. But any time a top 100 recruit leaves Miami, it's not good for the Hurricanes. Virginia Tech and USF were the other colleges he seriously considered out of high school.
• Kenny Heitz, who was a three-year starter at UCLA on some of the best college teams ever, died earlier week of cancer at age 65. Heitz, known for wearing black-rimmed glasses on the court, was a defensive stalwart at guard and forward who played a key role on three consecutive NCAA championship teams (1967-69). UCLA went 88-2 overall and 41-1 in the Pac-8 during Heitz's time at the school. His freshman class at UCLA included Lew Alcindor, Lucius Allen and Lynn Shackelford, a group that might be the best recruiting class of all time. After attending UCLA, Heitz went to law school at Harvard and later practiced in Los Angeles.
• Niagara announced this week that T.J. Cline, a 6-7 forward from Plano (Texas) West, would play for the Purple Eagles next season. Cline originally had planned to play for Air Force before changing his mind. So why should anyone care? Well, if genes matter, the kid is going to be good: His mom is Nancy Lieberman, maybe the best women's player of all time.
• Defense-minded G Kelsey Barlow has transferred from Purdue to Illinois-Chicago. Barlow was kicked out of the Boilermakers' program before last season's NCAA tournament. He will have to sit out this season at UIC and will have one season of eligibility remaining.
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