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July 5, 2013
A pair of five-star, Rivals150 talents in the 2013 class will lead their respective countries against one another Friday when the medal round begins at FIBA U19 World Championships.
Aaron Gordon and top-seeded Team USA will face Tyler Ennis and Canada in the quarterfinals at the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic. Tipoff is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. local Tucson time and will be streamed on ESPN3.com and livebasketball.tv.
Gordon leads the undefeated Americans (6-0) in scoring (13.5 points) and total blocks (7), is tied for first in rebounding (6.8), ranks second in total steals (13) and is tied for fourth in total assists (12) - all while coming off the bench.
Ranked the third-best incoming freshman in the country by Rivals.com, the Arizona-bound Gordon struggled from the field Wednesday against Serbia but found success on the boards in a 71-62 win. The forward missed 9 of 14 shot attempts, but his game-high nine rebounds - six on the offensive glass - helped the U.S. grind out the victory.
"I think he's really brought a lot of great energy," U.S. head coach Billy Donovan said in a release issued by USA Basketball. "That's the one thing I love about him is he has great enthusiasm, he has great passion, you can always rely on him playing hard. I think the sky is the limit for him. I think his perimeter skills will get better, but just what he can do athletically around the basket - his length, his shot blocking, his handling, his disruptiveness in the press - he just brings a lot of different value to the team that you truly can't teach because he has such a good motor."
But there is plenty of depth on the U.S. roster outside of Gordon, too.
Fellow reserves Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, the lone 2014 prospects, rank second and third, respectively, in scoring for the Americans. Okafor is averaging 12.2 points on a tournament-leading 73.3 percent shooting, while Winslow has 11.2 points to go with a tie atop the team's rebounding leaderboard with Gordon.
Okafor picked up the slack during Gordon's off shooting day, leading the U.S. with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting against Serbia. Winslow's four free throws over the final 56 seconds iced the victory.
"We just know who has what role," Gordon said of the team's chemistry. "People are starting to blossom, people are starting to find people, and I just think we're starting to click."
Meanwhile, Ennis, ranked 22nd in the class and headed to Syracuse, is a point shy of tying Croatia's Dario Saric for the tournament lead in scoring. Through six games, the point guard is averaging 21.3 points - Ennis has recorded 25 or more on three occasions - including a personal-best 28 against Lithuania.
Ennis also leads the Canadians in total assists (18) and steals (10), as well as field goal percentage (49.5 percent) among players with more than 10 attempts.
Opponents, however, are shooting just 33.6 percent and averaging 52 points against the U.S.
Canada (3-3) has won three of its last four and scored at least 78 in each of its victories. Serbia (62) and Brazil (66) are the only teams to score more than 57 against Team USA, which has forced 23.8 turnovers per game.