High school teammates Abdul Gaddy and Avery Bradley of Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma, Wash.) shared American MVP honors as they led their USA Two team to victory at the second annual Nike Global Challenge is Hillsboro, Ore., from Aug. 8 to Aug. 10.
In addition to the great basketball that was played throughout the weekend, the Global Challenge featured some fascinating off-court highlights, including a couple of coaches threatening to quit in the middle of games because of fears of American referee conspiracies.
Here are a few awards that cover it all from a fun weekend.
Stars of the Week, American
Avery Bradley, Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma, Wash.), Undecided -- In the finals, Bradley carried his team to a 117-104 win, recording 25 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals. In the semis, a hotly contested 81-75 triumph over Serbia, Bradley notched 24 points to lead all scorers and added three steals. In the opening-round win over Puerto Rico, he had 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting. The 6-foot-3 guard showed why he might be the best dunker in his class, throwing down several monster slams.
Abdul Gaddy, Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma, Wash.), Undecided -- The American co-MVP might not have been as flashy or prolific as his high school teammate, but he ran the show. In the finals, Gaddy had 12 points and seven assists to set the pace for USA Two. He had 13 points and six rebounds in the semifinals.
DeShaun Thomas, Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne, Ind.), Ohio State -- Thomas has always been highly ranked, but he played more consistently tough and aggressive than we've seen in a long time. He dominated the paint and wasn't afraid to go strong. He had 22 points and six boards in a 74-73 loss to Serbia and 23 points in a win over Lithuania.
John Wall, Word of God (Raleigh, N.C.), Undecided -- It's pretty much a given at this point that Wall is going to dominate at every event he goes to. Speed doesn't slump and he's one of the fastest players baseline to baseline we've ever seen. Not only can the 6-foot-3 guard get up the court in the blink of an eye, but he can finish with authority at the rim, throwing down one monster left-handed dunk after another. Wall's been in the center of some controversy recently, with AAU coach Dwon Clifton taking a job as an assistant at Baylor and CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish breaking the news that his AAU Brian Clifton was a licensed sports agent until four months ago. But Wall has the ability to block this out when he gets between the lines.
Star of the Week, International
Nikola Markovic, Serbia -- This 6-foot-9 power forward, who was born in 1989, just might have an NBA future. There were several NBA scouts on hand this weekend and they had to like what they saw from Markovic. A tough big man who's not afraid of contact, Markovic was a double-double machine for an impressive Serbian team. In his team's opening-round upset win of USA Three, Markovic had team highs in points (17) and rebounds (13). In Serbia's semifinal loss to USA Two, he again led in both categories with 20 points and 12 boards. In the third-place game loss to Canada, Markovic had 19 points and six boards. He won the international MVP award.
Filip Covic, Serbia -- The numbers might not bear it out, but Covic was the consummate floor general for Serbia. He handled the ball against American pressure, drove to the rim and always seemed to make the right pass. His turnovers were high, but so were his assist and steal totals.
Raymond Cintron, Puerto Rico -- This guy could really shoot it. Had 31 points, including six 3-pointers, in Puerto Rico's one win and was his team's leading scorer throughout the week.
Game of the Week, On-court
Serbia 74, USA Three 73 -- Last year, every game between an American team and a foreign squad was a blowout. Nike made a point to get better international talent this year and it showed right away. In the tournament's first night, the Serbian team showed no fear as it outscored USA Three, 25-16, in the final quarter to squeak by with a one-point win. The victory wasn't sealed until the final horn, as a corner 3-pointer by Dion Waiters of South Kent Prep (South Kent, Conn.) rimmed out at the buzzer. For the US team, Thomas led the way with 22 points, while Wall had 18.
Game of the Week, Off-court
USA Two 81, Serbia 75 -- In addition to being a great game, this one had plenty of juicy subplots. All week, the Serbians gained fans along press row for their intense, aggressive style of play. They certainly weren't intimidated by playing in a foreign country against American ballers. Among those not impressed however, was Jordan Hamilton of Dominguez (Compton, Calif.), a star on USA Two. After tangling with a Serbian player over a loose ball, Hamilton gave the kid a shot to the head, setting off a brief bench-clearing brawl. Serbia's Uros Lukovic came in and shoved Hamilton, while Hamilton's teammate, Roscoe Smith, threw the ball at Lukovic. In the end, Hamilton and Lukovic were ejected and the game went off without another incident. Except for the one instigated by the Serbian coaches. Incensed at calls they perceived to go against their squad, the coaches, pulled their team off the court while shouting "Conspiracy" to anyone who would listen. Eventually, Nike officials got them to finish the game, and USA Two came away with the win.
Dunk of the Week
Avery Bradley over Uros Lukovic -- Maybe the reason Lukovic was ready to fight Jordan Hamilton was because he was still getting over Bradley's dunk earlier in the game. The 6-foot-3 Bradley absolutely posterized the 6-10 Lukovic on a baseline slam that brought the crowd to its feet and nearly onto the court
Disturbing Trend of the Week
Coaches Pulling Teams off Court to Protest Calls
Not only did the Serbian team pull this stunt, but the Lithuanian squad did as well. In both cases, the coaches were coaxed into sending their teams back out, but they were firmly established as losers of the week by that point. Maybe the officiating wasn't great, but it worked both ways and there's no excuse for this lame move. The kids from both teams played great ball all week and it's unfortunate that their coaches had to overshadow that fact.