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FIBA U19 World Cup Final Recap

Mali makes history, Ayayi and Strawther go off


It started with a bang and ended with an explosion. Gonzaga players and prospects at the FIBA U19 World Cup showed the world why they are being looked at by one of the top Division 1 college basketball programs in the country. Oumar Ballo averaged a double-double and led Mali to the title game in a historic run. Joel Ayayi had multiple 30+ point games. Filip Petrusev averaged a double-double. Julian Strawther had the top two single-game scoring outputs. Ayayi and Ballo made the All-Star Five. By any measure, it was a successful week for the group and an encouraging sign of things to come for the Gonzaga program.

Joel Ayayi: 33 points (13-23 FG, 2-7 3pt, 5-6 FT), 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 turnovers

Ayayi and France rebounded from their last minute loss to Mali in the semi-finals by beating Lithuania and taking home the bronze medal. It was a wildly successful tournament for both Ayayi and France. The third place finish ties their best result in country history. Ayayi finished the seven game tournament averaging 20.9 points on 51 percent shooting along with 5.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.1 steals. His 20.9 points were third best in the field and earned him honors on the All-Star Five. Ayayi should get heavy guard minutes for Gonzaga this season and this performance is a positive sign for his development, as he limited his turnovers, was an efficient scorer, and provided multiple clutch shots.

Oumar Ballo: 15 points (7-15 FG), 7 rebounds, 3 blocks

Coming into the tournament, Mali only had two appearances in the event. They finished 15th and 16th. This year, Mali made a storybook run to the finals. Unfortunately, the USA was just too good and won the gold with a 93-79 victory. But the silver medal is still a historic milestone for Mali and Africa as a whole. Ballo missed the first two games because of travel issues, but made his presence felt immediately on return. He led the tournament in rebounds with 11.8 a game and averaged 17.6 points along with 3.8 blocks. His efforts put him on the All-Star Five. It will be interesting to see if he gets meaningful minutes right away for Gonzaga this coming season after a dominating effort in Greece. The big man looks to be a possible lottery pick when eligible for the NBA Draft in 2021.

Filip Petrusev: 25 points (7-7 FG, 11-12 FT), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers

Serbia had gold medal aspirations. It looked like they were on their way to a showdown with the United States in the semi-finals until they ran into a buzzsaw Lithuania team that sent double and triple teams into the post and forced Petrusev into 10 turnovers and forced Serbia into the consolation side of the bracket. Petrusev finished the tournament strong with a perfect day from the field and a strong performance at the foul line in a 110-92 win over Canada to secure seventh place. Petrusev averaged 19.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2 blocks. It seems probable that Petrusev will start alongside Killian Tillie to open the season, but with a plethora of talented bigs, he will need to limit turnovers and fouls in order to keep that spot.

Julian Strawther: 40 points (13-27 FG, 4-9 3pt, 10-14 FT), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 turnovers

Strawther was the breakout star of the tournament. We knew he had immense talent at the high school ranks, but he has not been able to showcase it at an international level. He did that and more in Greece. His 40-point output against Russia and his 35-point outburst against China were the two top scoring games in the entire tournament. Puerto Rico finished sixth after a tough loss to Russia on Sunday. The sixth place finish is tied for the best in country history. Strawther averaged 22.0 points in seven games, second-best in the field. He shot 57.3 percent inside the arc and grabbed 6.1 rebounds. The 2020 recruit should immediately step in and contribute for Gonzaga when he arrives on campus. With how the roster looks like it will shake out, it would not surprise me to see him be the first man off the bench and provide an explosive, athletic presence on the wing. His drive-and-finish ability is elite and he’s only 17 years old.

Martynas Arlauskas: 3 points (1-4 FG, 1-4 FT), 2 rebounds, 1 assist

Arlauskas averaged 5.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and a steal for fourth-place Lithuania. He defends well, but struggled to do really anything offensively. He shot just 32 percent from the field, but did go 4-for-10 from deep. It will be interesting to see how his skill set translates to the Division 1 level. Unless he is an absolute lockdown defender, or the staff feels Anton Watson is not ready to play wing, it’s hard to envision Arlauskas playing a ton of meaningful minutes his freshman season.

Jalen Suggs: 15 points (4-14 FG, 4-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals

The 2020 priority recruit started all seven games for the Americans and helped guide them to another gold medal. He’s played on three national teams and won three gold medals the last few years. He was a bit up-and-down from the field, but had a strong game in the semi-final. He followed it up with 15 points in the championship game. He averaged 9.6 points on 30 shooting along with 2.4 steals. Suggs has hinted on making a decision at some point this month.