Tuesday, May 21 2024

PORTLAND — Over 100 NBA scouts and executives packed the Coach K gym on Nike’s campus this past week for the Nike Hoop Summit to not only watch 12 of the top U.S. players practice and scrimmage but also 12 international players from 12 different countries, including Qatar, Lithuania, Ghana and the Bahamas. To conclude the festivities, the 24 players played a FIBA-ruled game Saturday night at the Moda Center, home for the Portland Trail Blazers.

During the game between Team USA and Team World, it felt like more than just a high school all-star game with players competing from the jump. It was a two-point game at the half and both teams kept it close until halfway through the fourth quarter. Team USA went up by 10 points and Team World didn’t have an answer, with Team USA pulling away and getting the 98-75 win. It was an evenly matched game for three quarters with a few future NBA stars sharing the court.

Team USA was led by Duke commit Cooper Flagg, who hit early foul trouble in the first half but really came alive in the second half, hitting 3s, making shots off the dribble and catching lobs. Flagg finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two assists in the win. Also leading the charge for Team USA was 6-foot-9 wing Asa Newell. The Georgia commit played well both inside and outside the paint, netting 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

“When you put this jersey on and you’re representing your country, it means something more,” Flagg said after the game. “There’s a lot of talent on the World Team and all week we were hearing that they were better than us so this game definitely meant more.”

This was the most talented World team in recent memory with five high-major college commits and the No. 1 player in the high school junior class, AJ Dybantsa, who led all players with 21 points. French point guard Nolan Traore was a steady floor general all game and got to the rim with ease, finishing with 18 points and four assists. Baylor commit VJ Edgecombe was also solid in the backcourt and added 17 points and five rebounds in the loss.

“Every country has hoopers,” Edgecombe told Yahoo Sports. “It’s becoming more universal and there’s talent coming from everywhere now, not just the U.S. Buddy [Hield] and Deandre [Ayton] paved the way for someone like me from the Bahamas and I’m just looking to do the same for little kids watching me play.”

There is no question that the NBA is becoming a more global game. Many of the top NBA stars are international players: Nikola Jokić (Serbia), Luka Dončić (Slovenia), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada) and Victor Wembanyama (France). In this year’s draft, there are several overseas players projected toward the top, with Alex Sarr (France), Zaccharie Risacher (France) and Nikola Topić (Serbia) all potential lottery picks.

Dybantsa, a 6-8 guard who represented both Jamaica and Republic of Congo, is one of the top players in high school, regardless of class. He played his junior year at Prolific Prep (Napa, California) and has been a player on NBA scouts’ radar for the last two years, playing up two divisions in Nike’s EYBL last year and being the No. 1 option on offense anytime he’s on the court. Dybantsa and Cameron Boozer are trending toward the top of the 2026 NBA Draft.

“[Dybantsa’s] scoring instincts are unmatched at the high-school level and his 3-point shot is showing improvement,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “There’s a reason why so many executives are here this week and it’s not just for Cooper [Flagg] and Ace [Bailey].”

Traore, a 6-3 guard out of France, was the floor general for the World team and is part of the next group of French talent coming up, following Wembanyama and Washington Wizards guard Bilal Coulibaly.

“The next generation of French players is going to be really good,” Traore told Yahoo Sports. “It’s getting more and more competitive and the talent is so good with younger players coming up and seeing what Victor [Wembanyama] and Bilal [Coulibaly] are doing in the NBA.”

Hamad Mousa, a 6-6 guard from Qatar, first caught NBA scouts’ attention at Basketball Without Borders during All-Star Weekend with how well he shot the 3-ball and defended the perimeter. His time on the court for the World team was extra special with his dad, Yassin, playing in the game 24 years ago.

“It’s really special to be able to play in this game, especially with my dad playing back in 2000, this was always a goal of mine,” Mousa told Yahoo Sports. “Just being from Qatar is huge and I get a lot of messages from back home with people just supporting me. Not a lot of players come out of Qatar, so just to represent my country and show other kids they can play at this level, it means a lot.”

The gap between talent in the United States and overseas is getting smaller and smaller. Saturday night’s game is an early taste of what’s coming to the NBA from all over the world and basketball fans should be thrilled about the young talent coming up outside of America.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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