Head coach leads men’s basketball team in China

Athletes compete against international teams, lose four games in preliminary round

Written By Austin Alkire, Co-Sports Editor

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Pioneers’ basketball head coach Joe Lewandowski led three of his own players to China to represent Team USA in the FIBA 3×3 U23 World Cup.

Juwan Willis, Mark Shehady and R.J. Fairrow were the three Point Park athletes who traveled to China with Lewandowski. They were joined by Cleveland State junior David Payne who led the team with 5.5 ppg (points-per-game).

The International Basketball Association (FIBA) played host to their annual three-on-three under-23 World Cup in Lanzhou, China. The tournament began in early October where teams participated in preliminary play with the top two teams advancing to the quarterfinals.

Lewandowski’s USA team lost their four games, ending their tournament run. They were one of 40 teams who participated in the tournament.

They began the tournament with a tout against Romania. It was Romania’s second game of the tournament. Earlier on in the day, Romania fell to China 21-16.

USA kept the game close and traded possessions with Romania throughout the game. Payne put up three two-pointers to give the USA a 14-9 advantage. However, Romania battled back and buried a two-pointer to take the lead with under a minute left. The American squad fell to Romania 21-18.

Against Romania, Payne led the team with nine points while Shehady posted five points of his own. Team USA committed 10 fouls which Romania capitalized on some of the free throws awarded to them, leaving the game going 4-for-10 from the line.

Later on in the day, Team USA found themselves matched-up against Latvia who had beaten Kazakhstan 21-15 a few hours beforehand. Latvia took silver in last year’s tournament.

Latvia proved to be a more difficult battle for the Americans. Latvia conquered Team USA 21-14. While the USA squad stayed within reach of the Latvians, with the score being 12-11 with less than five minutes to go, the latter team took off with the ball and dominated possession, outscoring the Americans 9-3 to close-out the game.

Willis and Fairrow both dropped five points each in their tilt against Latvia.

Two days later, Team USA was set to face Kazakhstan. The red, white and blue started the game off strong, going up 6-1 to start the game. Kazakhstan came back, outscoring the USA 9-2 to take their first lead of the game.

However, the lead kept exchanging hands with the USA’s final lead being 18-17. Kazakhstan responded with a 4-0 run to win the game 21-18. Willis racked in seven points for Team USA.

To close out the preliminary round, Team USA played the host team, China. After China went up 8-1 to start the game, the USA failed to come within reach of their hosts. Despite Shehady’s seven points, the visiting Americans fell to China 21-15.

With a final record of 0-4, Team USA was left behind in their group while China and Latvia moved on to the quarterfinals.

Lewandowski and his team left China without a win but managed to make an impact in the games they played, amassing a total of 65 points throughout the tournament. 

Whether or not Team USA will make an appearance in future FIBA tournaments is unclear as of publication. Lewandowski and his players will look to get back to work for the upcoming NAIA basketball season.

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