The FIBA U19 World Cup gets going this weekend and will stretch from June 29 through July 7 in Greece. 16 teams from across the globe have assembled their best group of 12 players to fight for a chance at national notoriety. Canada won the biennial event in 2017 behind RJ Barrett. The United States won it in 2015 and 2013 with Jalen Brunson and Aaron Gordon winning MVP honors. This year, the US appears to be the favorite again with Serbia, Canada, France, and Lithuania lurking behind them.
Gonzaga will have several players to watch in the event: two returning sophomores in Joel Ayayi and Filip Petrusev along with two incoming freshmen in Oumar Ballo and Martynas Arlauskas. 2020 commit Julian Strawther will also participate in the event and 2020 priority target Jalen Suggs rounds out the group. The following is a preview of each player, along with their recent FIBA history, and how to watch each one during the tournament.
Joel Ayayi - France
As of right now, it looks like Ayayi will be stepping in to a much larger role for Gonzaga next season. Watching him match up against some of the best young talent in the world should only help his development. Last summer, he participated in the U18 European Championships, in which France finished third and Ayayi was named to the All-Star Five. He averaged 15.7 points in seven games, including a 31 point, 5 rebound, 5 steal outburst against Greece. He averaged 50 percent from the field, went 8/23 from deep, and 14/16 from the line. His 16/20 assist-to-turnover ratio definitely leaves something to be desired, but his ability to play freely and attack the rim within France’s system is fun to watch. He scored 20 points and had zero turnovers in a friendly this past weekend. France has only finished better than 7th one time in this event (3rd in 2007).
When To Watch
June 29: France vs Puerto Rico - 6:00 am pacific
June 30: France vs China - 3:15 am pacific
July 2: France vs Serbia - 3:45 am pacific
Filip Petrusev - Serbia
Petrusev threw his name into the NBA draft process this spring, giving us an indication that he believes he might be drafted next summer. Either way, he will have a huge role in Gonzaga’s offense this coming season. We will get a chance to see how his defense and rebounding have improved during this event. Like Ayayi, he was part of the U18 European Championships last year, where Serbia took home the gold medal. Petrusev was also named part of the All-Star Five after averaging 21 points and 8.7 rebounds, both marks the third highest in the tournament. His championship performance: 29 points on 10/18 shooting, 8 rebounds, 3 assists. Serbia won the U19 World Cup in 2007 and finished second in 2011 and 2013, but missed qualifying altogether in 2017. They are considered a legit challenger for a gold medal.
When To Watch
June 29: Serbia vs China - 3:45 am pacific
June 30: Serbia vs Puerto Rico - 5:30 am pacific
July 2: Serbia vs France - 3:45 am pacific
Martynas Arlauskas - Lithuania
There is probably no bigger unknown in the 2019 recruiting class than Arlauskas. The tape of him is very limited. He missed a significant chunk of time the last 12 months with injury. We have no idea how his game will translate to a Division 1 college basketball. Arlauskas missed last year’s U18 Euros, but did play in the U16 Euros back in 2016, where he averaged 9.4 points and 3.7 rebounds. He is healthy enough to play now and has been part of their friendlies leading up to the tournament. Lithuania won the World Cup in 2011.
When To Watch
June 29: Lithuania vs Senegal - 7:45 am pacific
June 30: Lithuania vs USA - 7:45 am pacific
July 2: Lithuania vs New Zealand - 6:00 am pacific
Oumar Ballo - Mali
“Baby Shaq” will look to continue his torrid run through international competition. Last summer, he played in the U17 World Cup and averaged 20.6 points and 16.9 rebounds, including an absurd 32 point, 32 rebound triple overtime performance against the Dominican Republic. He scored just seven points against the United States, however. He also played in the U18 African Championships, where he averaged 8.5 points and 6 rebounds and a first place finish. As a fun (or not so fun?) fact, Ballo shot 53-for-109 from the foul line in those two events. Mali has only qualified for this event twice, finishing 15th and 16th.
When To Watch
June 29: Mali vs Latvia - 3:15 am pacific
June 30: Mali vs Canada - 3:45 am pacific
July 2: Mali vs Australia - 8:15 am pacific
Julian Strawther - Puerto Rico
The 2020 Gonzaga commit from Nevada will be entering his first FIBA tournament. He tried out for the U17 USA National Team last summer, but was sidelined by injury and missed the cut. This time around, he’s going back to his roots. His late mother was 100 percent Puerto Rican, so Julian Cordero-Strawther will be honoring his family while participating in the U19 World Cup. The 6’7 wing is also reportedly playing in the Centrobasket U17 Championship at the end of July as well. This is Puerto Rico’s seventh appearance in the event, with two sixth place finishes.
When To Watch
June 29: Puerto Rico vs France - 6:00 am pacific
June 30: Puerto Rico vs Serbia - 5:30 am pacific
July 2: Puerto Rico vs China - 3:45 am pacific
Jalen Suggs - United States
This could have been an incredibly fun Gonzaga-based team, but incoming freshman Anton Watson was part of the final six players cut, as was 2020 priority recruit Walker Kessler. But top 15 recruit Jalen Suggs made the roster, his third time representing the United States. He played in the U16 Americas Championship in 2017 and the U17 World Cup last season. He helped win gold medals in both events. Last year, he averaged 8.7 points and 2.7 assists. Suggs, one of the best high school guards in the country, has visited Gonzaga in an unofficial capacity and wants to take an official visit in the fall. It appears the Zags are the frontrunner in his recruitment should he choose basketball over football.
The United States has medaled in 10 of the 13 years this event has existed, with six golds, three silvers, and a bronze.
When To Watch
June 29: USA vs New Zealand - 10:00 am pacific
June 30: USA vs Lithuania - 7:45 am pacific
July 2: USA vs Senegal - 6:00 am pacific
Two side notes: Incoming Gonzaga freshman Pavel Zakharov, who played for the U18 Russian team in the Euros last summer is not on their U19 team in this tournament.
If you want to pay attention to other WCC players, Australia has a pair of incoming Saint Mary’s freshmen in Kyle Bowen and Alex Ducas along with Josh Kunen from San Francisco. Jaden Bediako, a 6’10 big man heading to Santa Clara, is playing for Canada.
There are four groups consisting of four teams each in this tournament. Every team team plays three group play games before all 16 teams head into bracket play. The round of 16 will take place on July 3rd before teams take a day off. The quarterfinals, semis, and championship will take place from July 5-7. There is a consolation side of the bracket, so all teams are guaranteed seven games.
The FIBA three-point line is what the NCAA just adopted for the 2019-2020 season, so if you aren’t sure how that looks, tune in. The lane is also a tad wider in international play. The teams play four 10-minute quarters with a 24 second shot clock. As in the past, all games should be streamed on YouTube and you can always access the official website here to follow along with live stats.
We will provide updates each afternoon with results and stats of each Gonzaga player as the tournament takes place.