In a year or two, Kenneth Lofton Jr. will watch as some of the players in the FIBA U-19 World Championship, including those who participated in several games, become NBA lotteries.
There will also be a lot of basketball in the future, plus, no more 6-7 pounds, 275 pounds that are usually the most popular in the industry. But Lofton always has it today: the day he became a world champion at the FIBA U19 World Cup, the day he became the main cause of Chet Holmgren and Patrick Baldwin Jr.and all other American teenagers won.
Lofton scored 15 of his 16 points in the second half to help the U.S. overcome five shortcomings – which were as big as eight in the third quarter – with an 83-81 victory over the champions and the competition in France over the weekend.
It was fitting that Gonzaga champion Chet Holmgren and Purdue sophomore Jaden Ivey were summoned to court following the match to claim all the prizes for the competition. Everyone was a worthy member of that team. But it was a surprise to see Holmgren called the MVP of the tournament when Lofton had become the most important and most important player in Canada’s last major power defeat in the semis and France.
As if to imply that the gold medal was crucial, Lofton went on to become the first player to thank Holmgren as he made his way back to his teammates.
The United States won the last four of its kind, including in 2019 when Cade Cunningham and Jalen Suggs won the most recent competition. There has been no defeat at the moment since 2007, when the team including Steph Curry and Patrick Beverley were unable to cope with Serbian Serbian home chances.
This has been the fifth US title in the U-19s since 2009, with Jamie Dixon – then in Pitt, now at TCU – coaching Gordon Hayward, Klay Thompson and fellow gold medalists. Dixon returned to lead the group, and did so again.
The US reviewed France’s victory in the second semifinal on Saturday, noting that the French have a high court case against Matthew Strazel, Jayson Tchicamboud and Rudy Demahis-Ballou, along with Victor Wembanyama’s offer. In beating Serbia, however, Wembanyama only had 9 minutes left and did not touch the game due to injury.
For the first 20 minutes, however, the US did not move basketball as well as French and thus were unable to put the Warrior in too much trouble. The US made eight changes and shot only 38% off the field to fall behind by five at half-time. They won their last six games in the tournament with an average of 34 points and did not go far enough.
Wembanyama played as if he wanted to rectify what happened on Saturday, and also faced the challenge of meeting Holmgren, the No. 1 prospect. 1 American. Vembanyama, who stands 7-2, scored 18 in the first half, plus two three-point, and prevented four shots before the break. The Americans struggled to determine its amazing length. He only scored four points after half the time, but still did well with about three minutes left.
Dixon forced his players to play through Lofton, despite being defended by Vembanyama, who is 9 inches tall.
He helped the team make the transition from the eighth to the third quarter to build the game to 59, then in the final four minutes he joined Holmgren to get them on the road.
With the US lead at 77-74 only in the fourth quarter, Lofton passed from Holmgren and climbed to the left. Lofton stole Tchicamboud and Ivey turned it into a seaport.
It would not have been easy, not against a dangerous team like France, but when a 3-pointer from France cut the lead by two points and left with 29 seconds, the Americans caught the end of Kennedy Chandler. If France were to return, they would have a chance to win or build.
Lofton grabbed the ball.
Of the only things he did not receive this evening was the MVP Cup.
A small gold medal hung around his neck later he had to do.