American prep hoopster stars for Argentina at worlds

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

An American high school star was one of the breakout stars of the recent FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Latvia. That may not be such a surprise. What is surprising is that the aforementioned teen isn't a member of Team USA.

Montverde Academy and Argentina forward Patricio Garino
Montverde Academy and Argentina forward Patricio Garino

Instead, Montverde (Fla.) Academy forward Patricio Garino starred for runners-up Argentina, who fell to Russia in the tournament's gold medal game. That's a far cry from the disappointing performance put out by the U.S. team, which became the first American squad to fall in the U-19 championships.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Garino averaged 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game across Argentina's nine-game tournament slate. Most significantly, Garino erupted for 21 points in a key, 81-76 victory against Croatia and 19 points in his squad's first game against Russia, including the impressive halfcourt shot you see below.

As a result, Russia then geared its championship game defense toward slowing the agile forward (the plan worked, as Garino was held to only two points in the championship game). That kind of compliment speaks volumes to what the tournament's top team thought about Garino's offensive threat.

Still, all of those positive numbers only reinforce another fascinating advantage that Garino has over his American compatriots: While the entire U.S. roster is either already competing for a college team or heading for a college campus in the coming weeks (only one player -- Jahii Carson -- was a recent high school graduate), Garino still has an entire year of prep basketball ahead of him at Montverde.

While Garino's sudden emergence on the international stage may have come out of left field, there may be legitimate reasons why recruiters haven't been beating down his Florida boarding school door: At 18 already, Garino could enter the draft directly from high school if the NBA maintains its existing draft entry rules in whatever labor contract eventually ends the current work stoppage.

A direct entry into the NBA may have seemed like a distinct long shot before the tournament, but it may not seem so far fetched now. Just ask the Croatian Under-19 national team.

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