HOUSTON – The most profound takeaway from the adidas Nations Global championship game Monday is the one you’ll have the toughest time believing is true.
Zion Williamson isn’t fully in basketball shape.
Yes, the same Zion Williamson who finished top three in scoring at the event, despite playing with four other five-star recruits, the same guy who literally looked inside of the rim on at least two in-game dunks on Monday and the same one who scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and was subsequently named MVP in USA 2018’s 108-79 romping of Asia Pacific.
“I’m still only at about 85 percent,” said Williamson, who sat out the majority of the summer nursing a knee injury. “If I’m able to do this at 85 percent I can’t wait to get back to 100 percent. I didn’t want to use that as an excuse because I really wanted this win with it being my last one of the summer. For me, it didn’t matter where I was at shape-wise; I was gonna do what I had to do to get the win.”
Williamson led six players in double figures for USA 2018; Quentin Grimes scored 14 points, Immanuel Quikcley had 15 points, Romeo Langford had 13 points and Javonte Smart and Jordan Brown had 12 points apiece.
“It was a balanced win and that made it even more fun,” Williamson said. “We all played really well together all week. It just clicked again for us today.”
Langford caught fire early, draining seven straight points to push USA’s lead to 18-6 midway through the first quarter. Quickley went on a 5-0 scoring run of his own midway through the second quarter and Williamson was too much for Asia Pacific in the paint, scoring 13 first-half points, to help USA claim a commanding 48-27 halftime lead.
Matur Maker did everything he could to keep Asia Pacific within striking distance in the second half, but USA 2018 had too many weapons and highlight makers.
Williamson kept the momentum on USA’s side with his trademark rim-rocking dunks and pandemonium ensued when he caught Quickley’s alley-oop in the fourth quarter and looked inside the rim before slamming it home.
“I had fun out there,” Williamson said. “The fans were in to it and everyone was just having a good time.”
The win was especially special for Langford.
The last time he suited up to represent his country was at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Egypt in July. That ended with a shocking loss to Canada in the semifinals.
“I didn’t really think about it before this game, but that loss was tough because it was for our country,” Langford said. “Now that I have a second to think about it, I’m really glad that we were able to get this win because it was another chance to play for USA against players from other countries. I would say this was the perfect way to end summer ball.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY