With Saturday's 103-92 loss at the hands of Israel (!), Alex Marcotullio's tour of duty on the Great Britain U-20 Basketball Team is over. Marcotullio dropped 23, hitting 5-12 from downtown and adding five assists, but the Israeli squad, featuring Davidson's Jacob Cohen, was too much, giving the UK a sixth-place finish. For Alex Marcotullio, this means a few things: first off, he can chill out in Europe for the next month-and-a-half, until Northwestern basketball begins its Italian tour August 28th. (I, personally, would not want to pay twice for airfare to-and-fro the continent, and Austria is close enough to Italy.) Secondly, it means he'll probably never again have to listen to the British National Anthem and fight the urge to sing the lyrics to "My Country Tis of Thee".
Thirdly, it means if he's reading this, he'll have to click the jump to read the rest of my analysis.
The most important thing is: ha! Israel, y'all! I don't always get down with stuff Israel is involved with, but as a Jew, I take pride in their sporting accomplishments. (Word to Yossi Benayoun and Omri Casspi!) Remember when Maccabi Tel Aviv beat the Raptors in an exhibition game a few years back? No coincidence. Israeli dudes can ball. Props to them on their fifth place finish.
I already spoke to y'all about how Marcotullio and the Britsquad got screwed in their relegation from the semifinals game to the fifth-eighth bracket, but, let's move past that. The GB team did fine, considering how much more popular basketball is in other European places. Not an altogether bad performance by the Brits - better luck next time, with or without Alex Marcotullio, and big ups for giving him the chance.
Let's take a closer look at our guy's performance though: he finished third on the team in scoring with 13.9 per game, behind two other NCAA players: UAB's Ovie Soko (19.1) and Arkansas-Little Rock's Will Neighbour (15.1). Not great, considering those two of the three other NCAA people on the team, but, on the plus side, Marcotullio clearly outclassed all the non-American based players. He started every game besides the one against Norway (for which he was injured) and played over half the minutes in every other game except a blowout victory against Belgium.
Let's think back to what I wanted from Alex's play before the tournament:
1. I hope they let him play point guard.
Accomplished? Nah. In 26 minutes per game, Alex averaged 1.4 turnovers. Andrew Lawrence, who plays for the College of Charleston, was the team's clear point guard, just from looking at the stats. There was the five-assist outburst in the last game, but that accounts for half of Marcotullio's assists from the tourney. I guess I'll have to give up on the dream of Marcotullio running the point.
2. Do something, anything, besides being a three-point specialist.
Accomplished: Kind of.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Alex being a great three-point shooter.
But I could practice being a good three point shooter in the Patten Gym, and they haven't even updated the tiny courts there with the new college three line. Alex doesn't need work at this. But if he did, I'd prefer if he did it in the Patten Gym, because I'd rather he use a unique experience to get some extra, organized playing time trying new stuff, like dribbling - in part because I want him to get better at it, and in part because if it turns out he can't get better at it, I'd rather it come at the expense of the UK Basketball team than us.
To a certain extent, Marcotullio did try this. In his seven games at the tournament, Marcotullio took nearly as many looks from inside the two-point arc - 21 - as he did in his entire season stateside - 23. And he was phenomenally efficient from inside the arc, hitting on 15 of those 21, good for 71.6 percent. Something tells me a lot of those were uncontested looks, because that's ridiculous, even on such a small sample size.
But it's clear what his role was on the team, as he attempted 53 three-pointers over the course of the tourney - about 7.5 a game. (That's one every 3 minutes and 22 seconds. THAT'S ONE EVERY 3 MINUTES AND 22 SECONDS.) Marcotullio was fifth in the tournament in three-pointers attempted and three-pointers made. So he was clearly meant to be a gunner.
That being said, there was a definite spark defensively for Marcotullio. He finished sixth in the tournament in steals per game, averaging 1.7. Oddly enough, this isn't completely counterintuitive to Marcotullio's stats from last year: he averaged .9 per game in only 14 minutes of playing time. This tournament, he averaged about twice as much playing time, and about twice as many steals. Then again, it could be due to whatever Great Britain's defensive scheme was: Lawrence and Soko each averaged over two steals per game, putting them second and third in the tourney. I'd really like to know what type of defense they were playing, but whatever it was, it's clear it was one predicated on forcing turnovers - 1-3-1, anybody? - so this is a real plus for me.
3. Continued Goodness at Shooting.
The FIBA line is 22 feet, two inches. The NCAA line is 20 feet, 9 inches. That's an extra foot and a half.
But Marcotullio shot better than he did over the tournament than he did in the NCAA, draining at 39.6 percent. His issue has never been range - watch him in practice, he'll hit from 26 feet out when he feels like it - it's his ability to hit shots with any sort of contesting defenders, which is what makes his performance here a little bit skeptical. I don't think it's a coincidence that most of Marcotullio's best performances last year were in nonconference play, while he shot 32.7 percent in the Big Ten slate - fourth best on the team of people with a decent amount of attempts, and just a tad better than Luka Mirkovic.
Either way, his stroke isn't going anywhere, as his mark from downtown this tourney shows.
So, that's probably it for basketball coverage for about a month or so. This post signifies me throwing my football blinders on: once more into the breach, punks.