In one of the most electric World Cups in recent FIBA history, this summer’s tournament surprised a lot of people. Underdogs like Latvia and Italy made impressive, Cinderella-like runs and established themselves as top-10 teams from across the globe. Players like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Carlik Jones, and Yuki Kawamura made names for themselves with unforgettable performances. But at the end of it all, Germany crowned themselves world champions, and were dominant in doing so, remaining undefeated through every stage of the tournament.
With the tournament having come to a close, though, a tournament review only seems right: with a plethora of outstanding performances, plays, and players, the wildly entertaining 2023 FIBA World Cup showed just how much worldwide talent there is in the sport of basketball. But, certain players stood above the rest this summer, proving their worth on the international level.
Latin American countries were also particularly impressive this tournament, only further continuing the wave of Latinos in the basketball world. Their contribution only aided the growing sentiment that basketball is not just an American or European sport — it’s a worldwide one.
Tournament Most Valuable Player: Dennis Schröder (Germany)
The top scorer on the champion team, there is no question that Dennis Schröder was the most valuable player of the FIBA World Cup this summer. A longtime NBA veteran, expectations for Schröder were already high, as many looked to the 30-year-old in leading Germany to a podium finish. Ultimately, Schröder did more than just that, though, serving as the anchor for an absolutely dominant Team Germany.
The Germans were a perfect 8-0, and Schröder supplied 19.1 points and 6.1 assists per game on over 43% shooting. Defensively, the 6’1 point-guard and Germany were unstoppable, holding opponents to just 69 points per game over that same eight-game stretch. All in all, Schröder looked dominant, and was the key component to a championship team.
Latino MVP: Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic)
It’s no surprise to just about anybody that KAT performed as admirably as he did. His 24.4 points per game over a five-game stretch were good enough to push the Dominican Republic into a top half finish in the FIBA World Cup standings, and ultimately improving their ranking to 18th in the world.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me representing this amazing country, this story is far from over 🇩🇴 ❤️— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) September 3, 2023
-Jackie’s Son pic.twitter.com/9vpiSsMr1K
Towns’ decision to join Team D.R. after a leave of absence lasting nearly a decade was one his country of origin will not soon forget. Furthermore, his decision to represent the D.R. is a big piece in a growing wave of Latino representation in the NBA, as well as a more widespread ownership of latinidad for NBA players.
Tournament Defensive Player: Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia)
There are too many candidates to name that could’ve easily beaten out the Serbian Sniper for this award, but Bogdanovic’s defensive impact simply made the most noise this tournament. As the clear leader of Team Serbia, the 31 year-old shooting guard was prolific in forcing big-time turnovers, while keeping the ball safe on the offensive side.
Among players who averaged more than two steals per game, Bogdanovic (2.1 steals) was the only to have a positive steal/turnover ratio, and similarly remained one of the most consistently efficient players all tournament long, finishing 11th in total efficiency among all players.
Latino Defensive Player: George Conditt IV (Puerto Rico)
If you had the chance to see Team Puerto Rico play in any of their matches, George Conditt would very quickly become an obvious choice for the best Latin defensive player on display in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The power forward-center hybrid Conditt, was an absolute force inside, using his 6’11” stature to finish top ten in blocks in the tournament (eight total blocks, 1.6 blocks per game).
Conditt wasn’t just a big body down low, though: seeing him in action was majestic, as he flew all over the place and affected just about every shot put up in his presence, whether or not he touched it.
Tournament Breakout Player: Carlik Jones (South Sudan)
Though he was an already established NBA guard, Carlik Jones really broke out and made a serious name for himself through his outstanding performances in South Sudan’s admirable run in the World Cup this August. Though NBA counterpart Wenyen Gabriel was far and away seen as the top option for the South Sudanese, Jones was massive in earning them three wins in five matches.
During the five-game stretch, Jones was eighth overall in points per game (20.4) on an efficient 48/41/78 shooting split. After this showing, don’t be surprised to see Carlik get some serious NBA attention, and a potential contract to lure him from the Chicago Bulls.
Latino Breakout Player: Tremont Waters (Puerto Rico)
Right alongside Jones is Tremont Waters, who similarly was a stud guard in college but has yet to receive serious opportunity on the professional level, still currently in the G-League. But the tiny guard from New Haven, Connecticut, was nothing short of unstoppable, with quite a few unforgettable performances in the midst of Puerto Rico’s top-16 finish.
Playing with KAT, the Boricuan now known as “Señor Aguas” still produced at a rate nobody expected him to: his 20 points and 9.2 assists per game placed him top-10 in the tournament in both categories. Waters’ play surely will attract tons of attention on the next level, and provide invaluable to Team PR.
Tournament Coach: Luca Banchi (Latvia)
Latvia was far and away the most impressive team during the FIBA World Cup, in large thanks to Luca Banchi, who was masterful in preparing Team Latvia against some of their toughest opponents, and was the mastermind behind their biggest upsets, which were ultimately responsible for their fifth place position by the tournament’s end. Banchi used his weapons at hand, including stars Davis Bertans and Andrejs Grazulis to pull off front-cover wins over France, Spain, and Italy.
Latino Coach: Nelson Colón (Puerto Rico)
Puerto Rico finished as the top-seeded Latin American country in the entirety of the tournament (12th place), despite not having a well-established name to lead them there on-the-court.
Big performances from guys like Tremont Waters and George Conditt IV were definitely of big help, but Nelson Colón’s coaching was on another level this summer: using a nine-man rotation, the 40 year-old head coach born in Ponce, Puerto Rico schemed perfectly on the defensive end for star opponents like Karl-Anthony Towns and South Sudan’s Wenyen Gabriel. Ultimately, Puerto Rico improved their ranking by fifth, moving up to 16th in the world after a world-class performance.
Tournament Clutch Performance: Dillon Brooks (Canada) – 39 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists
Dillon Brooks ended his tournament run with a bang, earning his spot atop the leaderboard of points in a single-game performance in this year’s World Cup. In a tremendous 127-118 win over the United States to secure third place and a podium finish, Brooks led Canada all the way through offensively, and did so in style: he only needed 18 shots, and shot 67% from the field, including an unbelievable 7-8 from three.
Brooks, as usual, was also lockdown on the defensive side, tallying a steal and two blocks to further aid his outstanding performance, and improving his stock as an NBA player even more.
Latino Clutch Performance: Tremont Waters (Puerto Rico) – 37 points, 7 rebounds, 11 assists
I already discussed how integral head coach Nelson Colón was to Team PR, but it’s safe to say there’s no way they would’ve earned the place they did without Waters. His breakout performance all tournament long was headlined by an unstoppable performance in a comeback win against the Dominican Republic in a nail-biter 102-97 win.
Tremont Waters went nuclear in a crucial Puerto Rico win to earn TCL Player of the Game honors 💥— FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 🏆 (@FIBAWC) September 1, 2023
📊 37 PTS | 11 AST | 7 REB | 7 3PM | 43 EFF#FIBAWC x #WinForPuertoRico 🇵🇷 | #InspireGreatness pic.twitter.com/tEwAGLQOml
Waters shot 50% from the field and was perfect from the free-throw line, but his most clutch moments came down the stretch, when Puerto Rico went to him for bucket-after-bucket, as they cut down the lead and eventually earned one for themselves — one they wouldn’t give up again.
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