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Meet the NBA G Leaguers Playing for USA in FIBA World Cup Qualifying (Round 1, Window 3)

By Jake Winderman | June 27, 2018

The United States will continue their FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying schedule on June 28 with a showdown against Mexico in Mexico City. Three days later, the team will make their way about 1,100 miles east to Havana for a match with Cuba on July 1. The United States’ World Cup qualifying roster consists exclusively of players from the NBA’s G League.

The team features an impressive mix of veterans like Nick Johnson and some of the NBA G League’s top younger talent in Rashawn Thomas and Alex Caruso. Here’s all you need to know about USA’s personnel in Mexico City and Havana.

Taylor Braun (V.L. Pesaro, formerly of the Salt Lake City Stars)

Braun is one of three returning players from the second qualifying window who will be competing with the team during the third and final qualifying window of the first round. At 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, Braun is a do-it-all forward who can score at all three levels, rebound well and contribute on the defensive end. During his 2017-2018 campaign with the Stars, Braun averaged 10.1 points on 38.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc, while contributing 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

Alex Caruso (South Bay Lakers)

Although he spent a lot of the regular season in Los Angeles as a two-way player, when Caruso played with South Bay at the NBA G League level, he was absolutely dominant. The Texas A&M product averaged 19.0 points, 7.8 assists, 3.8 boards and 2.0 steals in 29 games played during the 2017-2018 regular season. Caruso is a phenomenal isolation scorer who can beat defenders to the rack with his speed and throw it down at the rim with an impressive 36-inch vertical. He’s sure to be one of USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy’s favorite assets during the third qualifying window.

Reggie Hearn (Grand Rapids Drive)

Hearn is a knockdown 3-point shooter who can perfectly complement USA’s skilled point guards. The fifth-year pro out of Northwestern is superb at running off of screens, finding his balance and sinking triples with ease. In his five G League seasons, Hearn has shot 39.7 percent from beyond the arc and 42.8 percent from the field. His ability to consistently hit shots from downtown opens up the floor for his teammates, allowing the offense to flow smoothly.

Jonathan Holmes (Maine Red Claws)

Holmes presents a versatile set of skills for a 6-foot-9, 242-pound forward. The wide-framed Holmes is an excellent rebounder on the defensive end who uses his body to gain excellent position in the paint. On the offensive end, he has an extremely quick release, giving him the ability to hit 3-pointers in the face of closing defenders. Holmes’ gamut of skills makes him an extremely valuable asset for USA.

Amile Jefferson (Iowa Wolves)

Jefferson’s game is reminiscent of the old NBA, with his crafty low-post offense and back-to-the-basket skills. Jefferson took the NBA G League by storm during his rookie season, sinking 62.5 percent of his looks from the floor en route to 17.8 points per game. He was also an animal on the glass, grabbing 12.9 rebounds per game, including 3.6 boards per contest on the offensive end. Jefferson prefers a rim-rattling dunk to a layup any day of the week and is sure to exhibit this preference in Mexico City and Havana.

Kevin Jones (Nanterre 92, formerly of the Canton Charge)

Jones has spent the past few seasons overseas, but was a force to be reckoned with in his two NBA G League seasons. Between 2012 and 2014, Jones averaged 18.2 points and 8.8 rebounds on 51.2 percent shooting from the field. Jones’ proficient mid-range jumper works perfectly on pick-and-pops, while his size allows him to battle down low for second-chance scoring opportunities.

Nick Johnson (Austin Spurs)

Johnson was the 2018 NBA G League Finals MVP for good reason. He averaged 17 points and 5.0 rebounds in the best-of-three Finals series against Raptors 905, leading the Austin Spurs to their second championship in franchise history. Johnson shoots well off the dribble and can be one of the most impressive dunkers in the NBA G League when his game is on.  His alley-oop dunk in Game 2 of the Finals nearly blew the roof off of the Hershey Centre (see below).

Trey McKinney-Jones (Fort Wayne Mad Ants)

McKinney-Jones should be an extremely useful wing for USA in Mexico City and Havana. He’s an efficient shooter from distance and mid-range, but really excels in transition. McKinney Jones is fantastic at finishing with contact and always seems to be in the right place at the right time on fast breaks. He shot a career-best 39.7 percent from beyond the arc and 51.4 percent from the floor with the Mad Ants last season. If McKinney-Jones’ defensive production can match his offensive output, he’ll be one of the most versatile players on the USA roster.

Xavier Munford (Wisconsin Herd)

Munford’s style of play could best be described as fearless. He’s willing to take bigger players off the dribble to the rim and can knock down 3-pointers from well beyond the 3-point arc. Munford had a year to remember as a two-way player with the Herd last season, averaging 24.4 points, 5.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds per contest. He also shot a career-high 44.4 percent from 3-point range and 50.8 percent from the field. Munford has the ability to score 40-plus points on any given night and will be a defensive priority for Mexico and Cuba.

David Stockton (Stockton Kings)

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree for Stockton. The son of Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton will serve as one of USA’s floor generals in the upcoming qualifying window. David Stockton had a terrific campaign during the 2017-2018 season with the Reno Bighorns, averaging 16.3 points, 5.3 dimes and 1.8 steals. He also shot 40 percent from downtown, sinking 76 3-pointers for the Bighorns this past year. Stockton is quite skilled at finding the open man, whether dribbling or set, and can knock down 3-pointers off the dribble or in the corner at a high clip.

Rashawn Thomas (Oklahoma City Blue)

After going undrafted out of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Thomas made a name for himself in his rookie year with the Oklahoma City Blue during the 2017-2018 season. His high-motor and impressive length make it seem like he’s always playing the game at 110 percent speed. Thomas is like a freight train when he comes off of a pick-and-roll, careening down the lane at full-speed before throwing it down with authority. He averaged 13.9 points and 7.3 boards during his rookie campaign, providing value on both sides of the floor for the Blue.

Marcus Thornton (Canton Charge)

Last but not least is Thornton, a 2-guard with impressive range from beyond the arc. Thornton averaged 3.4 made 3-pointers per game last season with the Charge, scoring 18.8 points per contest. He uses his 3-point shot to open up the floor and has the ability to hit mid-range jumpers with ease. Thornton has a variety of go-to moves to create space for himself and isn’t hesitant to drill difficult shots. If he can get his offense going consistently, he’ll be one of the most dynamic scorers for the United States in Mexico City and Havana.

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