Make that a 23-0 all-time record in U-17 competition for Team U.S.A. Only this one wasn’t nearly as one-sided as almost all the others, and the Americans owe a huge debt of gratitude to one Malik Newman for walking away with another gold medal after a 99-92 victory against Australia.
Facing Australia for the title, Team U.S.A. entered with an average margin of victory of more than 40 points. To put it bluntly, they were absolutely flattening the rest of the competition. Then along came the Australians and guard Dejan Vasiljevic, and suddenly the Americans had a problem. In fact, despite all the high powered talent at Team U.S.A.’s disposal, no one quite kept up with Vasiljevic, who finished with a game-high 29 points. The game’s second leading scorer was the man he shared an Aussie backcourt with; guard Tom Wilson scored 23.
Luckily for the Americans, they could call on Malik Newman. The Mississippi native and all-everything recruit for Callaway High in Jackson scored 21 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and even chipped in a trio of assists in his squad’s gold medal win. Newman’s performance earned him tournament MVP honors at a major international event for the second consecutive year.
The victory in Qatar asserts American dominance across age groups in international basketball, but the margin of victory certainly speaks to the ever-narrowing talent gap between the U.S. and top foreign competition. Between Australia, Argentina, Spain and France, not to mention Greece, which played the Americans tough early in the tournament, it may only be a matter of time until one of those squads pips the U.S. to a youth crown.
Not this time, and not while Newman is on watch.