College basketball no longer has any representation in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup as New Zealand fell today to Lithuania in the Round of 16.
Nebraska guard Tai Webster and Hawaii forward Isaac Fotu were both playing for the Tall Blacks in the event and Fotu, in particular, had a very positive event.
In six games, the 6-foot-4 Webster averaged 5.3 points, 3 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game while shooting 37 percent (13-for-35) from the field and nine percent (1-for-11) from three-point range.
While those numbers aren’t great for Webster, being a college sophomore playing against a lot of professionals is a valuable training camp.
The 6-foot-8 Fotu had a strong showing at the World Cup, as he finished in double figures in the scoring column the last three games of the event and averaged 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Fotu also shot 60 percent (23-for-38) from the field and 41 percent (5-for-12) from three-point range.
New Zealand may be eliminated but the six games — and practices — were both valuable experiences for Webster and Fotu entering the 2014-15 college basketball season.
Among those currently connected to college basketball, there are five players and one head coach participating in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. With two (Angola’s Yanick Moreira and Ukraine’s Sviatoslov Mykhailiuk) playing on teams that failed to advance out of group play, Saturday’s action began with three players and one coach remaining in the field.
Both categories dropped by one Saturday evening, with the Dominican Republic (led by USF head coach Orlando Antigua) losing 71-61 to Slovenia and Senegal (which includes Ohio senior forward Maurice Ndour) losing to hosts Spain 89-56.
Antigua, who took over for former boss John Calipari as head coach of the Dominican Republic national team, became the first coach to lead the team into the knockout rounds of the event since 1978 by leading the team to a 2-3 mark in Group C. Unfortunately for Antigua his team managed to score just 13 points in the second quarter Saturday, and Slovenia’s Dragic brothers (Zoran and Goran) combined to score 30 points with Zoran responsible for 18.
The Dominicans were led offensively by former Quinnipiac guard James Feldeine, who scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a losing effort. Now that his tournament is over Antigua will rejoin his program at USF, a group that looking to rebound from two disappointing seasons under former head coach Stan Heath.
As for Ndour, he and his teammates ran into one of the tournament favorites by virtue of their finishing fourth in Group B, and as expected things didn’t go well against Spain. Senegal trailed by just six points (23-17) at the end of one quarter, but an 11-point second quarter resulted in Spain eventually pulling away for a comfortable victory.
Ndour finished the game with four points and two rebounds, and for the tournament he averaged 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest at one of Senegal’s first players off the bench. Ndour’s role will be different during his senior season at Ohio, as he’ll look to build on a productive 2013-14 season under new head coach Saul Phillips.
The two remaining current college players in the event are New Zealand’s Tai Webster (Nebraska) and Isaac Fotu (Hawaii), and they’ll be in action Sunday morning as they take on Lithuania.
While some have jumped off the SMU bandwagon thanks to Emmanuel Mudiay’s decision to turn pro and play in China this year, the fact of the matter is that Larry Brown has a team capable of winning its first conference title since 1972. With guard Nic Moore and forward Markus Kennedy leading the way, the Mustangs will likely still be the favorite to win the American Athletic Conference this upcoming season.
With that being the case senior center Yanick Moreira’s time with the Angolan national team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup could prove incredibly valuable should he use it as a springboard into 2014-15. And given the way Moreira’s played in Spain, Kennedy will have a more than capable front court sidekick.
Angola fell short of victory Wednesday, losing 93-87 to undefeated Slovenia, but Moreira put forth his best offensive performance of the event with 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field. Moreira also grabbed five rebounds, four of which came on the offensive end of the floor. For the tournament Moreira, who averaged six points and just under four rebounds per game in 23 appearances last season, is averaging 12.8 points and 6.5 rebounds with one contest left to play.
That final game will provide Moreira and his teammates with quite the test, as Australia has multiple big men capable of making life difficult. If Angola can win that game and get some help in the form of Korea beating Mexico, they’d advance out of the group stages and into the Round of 16. But regardless of what happens Thursday, this has been a successful tournament for a player who missed a month of action in 2013-14 due to a knee injury.
And if Moreira can carry this production over into the 2014-15 season, SMU will reap the rewards as they look to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.