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Coach Billy Donovan going full-bore for USA U18 men

By: quentin sickafoose quentin.sickafoose@gazette.com
June 22, 2014 Updated: June 23, 2014 at 2:03 pm
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USA's Luke Kennard, left, gets ahold of the shirt of Argentina's Bruno Sansimoni as he defends in the second half of USA's 118-64 win Sunday, June 22, 2014 at the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men at the Olympic Training Center. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Don't ask Billy Donovan to turn it down, that's just not who he is.

The Team USA coach conducted business in Sunday night's U18 FIBA Americas Championship preliminary game at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center as if it were a Final Four matchup. His squad scored the first basket and took its lead all the way down to the game's end, handling Argentina 118-64.

But not even a 55-point lead late in the third quarter could keep Donovan from Donovan-like coaching. The two-time NCAA national champion remained on his feet, demanding hustle, tighter coverage and a more intense style of play out of the nation's top high school basketball players.

"I've always said that the scoreboard doesn't give you a license to not do your job. I never look at it like we're up 50 points in a game. I look at the next possession and ask if we're doing our job correctly," Donovan said. "When you're up like that, you have to have the maturity to find areas where you can improve."

And his mindset seems to be the common thread running through the entire Team USA program. Since the beginning of the tournament, the Americans have outscored their opponents 374-168, winning all three preliminary games by a minimum of 54 points.

Even the differences between the University of Florida coach and his assistant on the U.S. team, Arizona coach Sean Miller, finds common ground in Donovan's full-bore approach.

"When you get this chance to represent your country like this, which is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, you want to leave with no regrets," Miller said. "It's a great responsibility and we're going to be sure to play to the best of our ability at all times."

At the forefront of the coaches' orders on Sunday night was Jalen Brunson. The 17-year-old guard out of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., scored a team-high 16 points. He also dished out six assists and grabbed two rebounds in the 23 minutes he was on the court.

"To be coached by guys like this, you really have to take it all in as much as you can because you only have so much time with them," Brunson said. "Those guys know what you're capable of and they want you to be your best. It makes you give it your all because you want to."

Despite Sunday's loss, Argentina (2-1) joins USA (3-0) in advancing out of the Group B prelims to the medal semifinals.

Canada (3-0), winners of Group A, will play Argentina at 3:15 p.m. Monday. USA will tip off against the Dominican Republic (2-1) in the following game at 5:30 p.m. The gold-medal game will be played Tuesday evening at 5:30.

"I think about it as playing for it on my chest, not on my back," Brunson said. "Having the name on the back of your jersey is cool, but to represent all 50 states and have a chance to wear a medal means even more."

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