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Everything you need to know about USA Basketball’s U18 FIBA Americas roster

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Shaka Smart leads a team that includes some of the best young talent in the country.

USA Basketball

Before USA Basketball’s senior men’s team heads to Rio to defend its gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics, the program’s U18 squad is set to take center stage at the FIBA Americas Championship. The event begins on Tuesday and runs for five days in Valdivia, Chile with the top four teams qualifying for the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship.

Texas’ Shaka Smart is coaching the 12-man team that includes three players from the high school class of 2016 and nine from the class of 2017. Every player in the tournament had to be born on or after Jan. 1, 1998. The United States has won the competition seven times in nine tries, but gold isn't guaranteed. In 2002, a team with Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Andre Iguodala and Deron Williams merely took home bronze.

The last time this event took place was in 2014, when a young forward named Stanley Johnson won MVP honors. Just a few months ago he was defending LeBron James in the NBA Playoffs as a 19-year-old rookie. The path from high school to the pros moves at breakneck speed for players of this caliber, and there’s no better place to get a first look at some of the best young talent in the world than at a competition like this.

Here’s everything you need to know about the USA roster.

PG Markelle Fultz, Washington, freshman

Fultz enters the tournament expected to be the best player in the field, and for good reason. The 6’4 point guard just seems to get better at every event. He will head to Washington this fall with considerable buzz that he could be the No. 1-overall pick in the next NBA Draft:

Fultz has an ultra-smooth game that thrives on creating offense for himself and others. He’s a capable scorer from all three levels and has shown a sixth sense for creativity as a playmaker. This will be his first time traveling abroad with USA Basketball, but he’s already shown he can excel against international competition at Hoops Summit.

It’s been an incredible rise for a player who couldn’t make DeMatha High School’s varsity team as a sophomore. An MVP-worthy performance in Chile would be the perfect cap to his pre-college career.

via USA Basketball

F Michael Porter Jr., Washington commit, class of 2017

Washington fans can daydream about Fultz and Porter sharing the floor together, but this is likely the only time they will actually be able to see it happen. By the time Porter is heading to Seattle, Fultz will have already shaken Adam Silver’s hand at the NBA Draft.

Porter will be looking to build on his dominant play at Peach Jam earlier this month, where he led Mokan Elite to the EYBL championship. He’s an elite athlete with guard skills in a 6’10 frame. Questions persist about his toughness and this will be a great opportunity to put those to rest. If anyone can unseat DeAndre Ayton as the No. 1 player in the class of 2017, it’s likely Porter.

C Mohamed Bamba, uncommitted, class of 2017

Can Mo Bamba’s tools already translate into production? With a historic 7’9 wingspan and good lateral quickness for a 7-footer, Bamba has the potential to be a devastating defensive anchor. He still needs to add strength in a big way at this point in his career, so it will be fascinating to see how he fares against international competition.

PF Jarrett Allen, Texas, freshman

Allen is Smart’s first signature blue chip recruit at Texas, but he very much deserves to be here on his own merit. He looked good in the Hoops Summit (nine points, nine rebounds) as a big man with endless arms (7’5.5 wingspan) who runs the floor, cleans the glass and has a decent face-up game. He should be a great fit in Shaka’s system. We’re guessing Smart doesn’t mind being able to work with him for a few extra days in July.

Via USA Basketball

SG Hamidou Diallo, uncommitted, class of 2017

Think of Diallo as a 6’6 Victor Oladipo. The five-star shooting guard might be the best pure runner and jumper in the senior class. He’s also the type of ferocious on-ball defender that makes Smart’s heart swell.

PG Trae Young, uncommitted, class of 2017

Porter’s running mate on Mokan Elite is a knockdown shooter who finished No. 4 in scoring in the EYBL by averaging 21.3 points per game. Young isn’t a big guard (only about 6’1, 170 pounds) but he holds offers from just about major program in the country. He was doing silly things at the Peach Jam title game:

PG Quade Green, uncommitted, class of 2017

Green led the EYBL in assists with 10.5 per game. Trae Young finished No. 2 with 7.1. Playing with Bamba on the PSA Cardinals helped him rack up such gaudy numbers, but this is a floor general with an advanced feel for the game. It will be fun to see if that connection can continue in Chile.

SG Kevin Huerter, Maryland, freshman

Your designated shooter. The 6’5 shooting guard was a nice get for the Terps as the No. 49 player in the class of 2016.

C James Banks, Texas, freshman

Another Longhorn, Banks gives Smart a big body — 6’11, 240 pounds, 7’5 wingspan — in the front court. While he isn’t considered a possible one-and-done like Allen, they both do have the same delightful haircut. ‘Fro Bros forever.

PG Matt Coleman, uncommitted, class of 2017

The fastest player on this team. Coleman is another small guard in the backcourt, but Smart will love his pressure defense.

SG M.J. Walker, uncommitted, class of 2017

I’ll direct you to the feature I wrote on Walker in May. The 6’5 off guard could have played football at any college in the country but he’s getting buckets in Chile instead. Good choice.

F P.J. Washington, uncommitted, class of 2017

The 6’7, 230-pound combo forward, rated No. 16 in the senior class by ESPN, should give Smart some versatility off the bench. The 247 Sports Crystal Ball has Texas as a slight favorite over Kentucky and North Carolina for his commitment. Putting him on this team shouldn’t hurt Shaka’s chances.

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