Portland, OR – The best youth basketball talent in the world came to the Moda Center Friday night, as Team USA squared off against the World Select Team. The majority of the players are from the 2022 high school class and a few from the 2023 class. The Nike Hoop Summit brings this collection of players to compete on the hardwood once a year. Top NBA talent such as Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Nikola Jovic have participated in this event in the past. After a competitive first half, Dariq Whitehead and Cam Whitmore led the way for Team USA to a 102-80 victory over the World Team with each scoring 19 and 17 points respectively.
In the first quarter, Jean Montero (World Team) who has played professionally overseas and currently is a part of the Overtime Elite squad, got things going right away with a step-back 3-pointer. At the moment, the 6-2 point guard out of the Dominican Republic, is projected as a late first round selection. He is undersized, though displayed toughness and helped to organize and provide plenty of offensive creativity off the bounce to generate shots for himself and teammates. Defensively, he was feisty with quick hands to come away with two steals. He finished with a game high 23 points (7-for-15 FG) including four 3s and added three assists. The World led Team USA after the quarter 26-23.
Cam Whitmore came off the bench and sparked Team USA in the second quarter. He makes the game look easy and excels in transition where he can rise above the rim with his vertical leap. Also, he was able to score in a variety of ways whether in the post, slashing to the hoop or knocking down 3s. During the second period, the Villanova commit, had back-to-back dunks in transition to give Team USA a 37-34 lead with six minutes remaining in the half. Villanova and Jay Wright continue to bring in versatile wing players who compete at both ends of the floor. Whitmore, listed at 6-6 ,had a team-high 19 points on 7-of-8 from the field and went 2-for-3 beyond the arc.
Team USA continued to build their lead in the second quarter behind Nick Smith Jr. who is ranked as the sixth best high school prospect in the 2022 class. The 6-4 guard, had a nice showing, including a dazzling drive to the hoop, where he threw it off the backboard, and finished the put-back. The USA squad extended their lead to nine points at 45-36. Smith Jr. has committed to play for Arkansas next season with the Razorbacks having one of the top recruiting classes. He had 10 points on 4-for-10 from the field, three assists and two steals. Smith only shot 1-of-5 on 3s, with his consistency hopefully improving next year in college.
Omaha Biliew got the World Team within striking distance right before the half by penetrating strong to the basket and scoring in the paint through contact, capping off the 3-point play with the made free throw. Moments later, Montero found Biliew in cutting to the basket on the break and scored on the lay-in. The 6-8 small forward out of South Sudan, is just 17 years old and ranked as the No. 8 best prospect in the 2023 class. Biliew had 12 points (5-for-12 FG) and six rebounds. He showed no fear attacking the hoop often even challenging the bigs of Team USA. Going into the half, the World Team trailed Team USA 51-45.
In the second half Team USA took charge and stepped up their play at both ends of the floor. Dariq Whitehead played a solid all-around game. He was the best shooter on the floor and his mechanics and footwork back his shooting numbers. He connected on 5-of-7 beyond the arc. He spotted up for 3-pointers in the corner and pulled up in transition at the six minute mark of the third quarter to give Team USA their biggest lead of the game at the time (63-51)h. Duke as three of the top five prospects coming to Durham next season and Whitehead may have the highest ceiling as a pro prospect in the group, even ahead of the nation’s number one prospect Dereck Lively II, who was plagued with fouls and did not see much action in the game. The 6-6 shooting guard filled up the stat sheet finishing the game with 17 points and added five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Down the stretch excitement built as the local Oregon fans were cheering loudly for future Oregon Duck Kel’el Ware. The 7-0 center made the most of his time on the court, scoring on a thunderous dunk and showing his shooting touch both from mid-range and downtown by knocking his only 3-point attempt. Ware had 11 points on 4-for-5 from the field and pulled down five rebounds. The Pac-12 is looking strong from the center position as Vincent Iwuchukwu, a USC Trojan commit has the height, length and athleticism to add to the long list of top performing centers over the past ten years for the Trojans. The Nigerian native contributed to Team World, by adding nine points and six rebounds. Team USA’s 52 percent shooting from the perimeter and forcing Team World into 18 turnovers helped pave the way to the easy win.