Star-studded Team Harden, made up of many of the nation’s top 2017 prospects, uses big third quarter to defeat Team Canada to capture the 2016 adidas Nations championship with an unbeaten record. UCLA recruit Jaylen Hands is named game MVP for Team Harden while top prospect DeAndre Ayton and multi-dimensional guard Troy Brown shine.
With the sheer amount of talent on Team Harden 2017, it was going to take a monumental effort for Team Canada (or any other team for that matter) to knock off the star-studded team at adidas Nations. The two teams locked horns Monday evening at Cerritos College for the second time during the event to decide the championship.
Team Harden and Team Canada met on Sunday morning with Team Harden recording a 104-89 victory. In the championship rematch televised on ESPNU, it looked like the Canadians had a chance to pull off a major upset — for one half at least. Behind the inspired play of 6-foot-4 guard Luguentz Dort and 6-foot-5 wing Nickel Dean-Walker, Team Canada held a 56-50 halftime lead, but Team Harden used a big third quarter to seize control of the game and walk away with a 123-96 victory and the expected tournament championship.
Team Harden, which went 5-0 and handed Team Canada its only two losses, used a 43-19 advantage in the third quarter to take control of the game. The team’s starters — point guard Trevon Duval, shooting guard Gary Trent Jr., small forward Hamidou Diallo, and post players Wendell Carter Jr. and DeAndre Ayton — did most of the damage during the pivotal run. Ayton took control on the boards and clearly was the one player other teams simply had no answer for when he was locked in at this event. Last year’s national junior of the year at Hillcrest Academy (Phoenix, Ariz.) finished the title game with 13 points and 14 rebounds after going for 26 and 11 in the team’s first meeting on Sunday.
Team Canada hurt its chances for victory by missing free throws in the third period. The Canadians missed 7-of-14 shots from the line in the third quarter alone and made 17-of-31 in the title game. Team Harden made 27-of-37 and shot 56 percent from the field (45-of-81) while Team Canada shot 47 percent (35-of-75). Dean-Walker finished with a team-high 17 points, while Dort finished with 15.
Leading the way in the scoring department for victorious Team Harden was point guard Jaylen Hands, who has verbaled to UCLA and was named MVP despite coming off the bench. Hands was one of Team Harden’s talented players who had to adjust to getting less-than-normal playing time on the loaded unit. Hands scored a game-high 18 points on a variety of lay-ups and pull-up jumpers and also contributed two rebounds and an assist. In the first meeting versus Team Canada, Hands scored eight points in 18 minutes, but made the most of his 16 minutes in the championship game.
Another top 25 type talent who thrived in his reserve role was multi-dimensional guard Troy Brown Jr. of Centennial (Las Vegas, Nev.), who recently narrowed down his college choices to Alabama, Arizona, CAL, Georgetown, Kansas, Ohio State, Oregon, and hometown UNLV. Brown, who is 6-foot-5 and normally plays on the ball for his high school and travel ball team (Las Vegas Prospects), spent plenty of time on the wing — and thrived because of his ability to rebound and push in transition, set up cutting teammates or score around the basket. Brown finished the event top 10 in rebounding, top six in assists, and No. 2 in steals while remaining an on-ball scoring threat. He finished the title game with 14 points and six rebounds after recording 10 points, six rebounds and four assists in the Sunday victory over Team Canada.
“It was fun playing with this team because, besides USA Basketball, I’ve never had a team like this around me and I wanted to take full advantage of it,” said Brown, who stated he would prefer to play on the ball in college. “Playing with great guards like Jaylen (Hands) and Trey (Travon Duval), I didn’t mind playing off the ball and for me the experience helped expand my game.”
Forward P.J. Washington of Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) also had a big outing with 16 points and eight rebounds while Diallo aded 12 points.
“Hamidou Diallo surprised me the most with his ability, by far.” Brown said.
The ability of Team Harden’s players didn’t catch anyone by surprise — and neither did its unbeaten run through adidas Nations.