INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — USA Basketball played inside a bubble for the first time Sunday and didn’t miss a beat.
Amile Jefferson had 17 points and 11 rebounds, helping the U.S. roll past the Bahamas 99-59 on Sunday in a qualifier for the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup. The U.S. improved to 3-0 in its six-game qualifying schedule for the AmeriCup — and has not trailed in any of those games, the first two of which took place back in February.
John Jenkins and Tyler Hall each scored 12 points for the U.S., while Levi Randolph had 11 and Travis Trice scored 10. The Americans used a roster of G League players, coached by Mike Fratello, and could clinch a spot in the 12-team AmeriCup field on Monday by beating Mexico.
“It's one of the greatest honors that I've had throughout my entire coaching career," Fratello said of the chance to coach the Americans in qualifying. “I just wanted us to be able to do as well as we could and play as well as we could to represent our country and represent the game of basketball, how we play it and how it should be played."
Nashad Mackey had 13 points and D’Shon Taylor scored 12 for the Bahamas (1-2), which faces Puerto Rico on Monday. Mychel Thompson, the older brother of Golden State guard Klay Thompson, had seven points for Bahamas — which had only eight players on its roster Sunday.
The U.S. outrebounded Bahamas 55-32. The Bahamas are hoping to add two more players for Monday's game.
“It's going to be next-game attitude," Taylor said. “We're going to come in and try our best to execute. We can only ask our players to do the best that they can."
The games in this qualifying window are taking place inside a bubble at Indianapolis, where teams and coaches have been tested for coronavirus several times. Fans and outsiders are not permitted.
The Americans — who have won seven gold medals in nine previous AmeriCup attempts — are scheduled to go on the road for the final window of qualifying, visiting the Bahamas on Feb. 18, 2021 and then going to Mexico on Feb. 21, 2021.
AmeriCup is the championship for the FIBA Americas region. Brazil has already qualified; 15 teams are still vying for the final 11 spots in the tournament that will take place from Sept. 2-11, 2022.
“To put this jersey on and play for USA Basketball, it's the ultimate sign of playing for something bigger than yourself," Jefferson said.
The AmeriCup qualifying is the first step in a long process toward making the fields for the 2023 Basketball World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics. Only the host nations — the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia for the next World Cup, and France for the 2024 Olympics — automatically qualify for those tournaments. All other nations must graduate through a series of other tournaments, such as the AmeriCup, to make those fields.