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High School sports

Confidence soaring for Immanuel Quickley as he helps Team USA in world championship tournament

With an opportunity to showcase his basketball skills alongside the finest players in the country, Immanuel Quickley's first goal was to simply become a better player during his tryout for the USA under-17 team May 26-30 at Colorado Springs, Colo.

A rising junior at John Carroll, named The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year for the 2015-16 season, the 6-foot-4 point guard showed hard work on defense and smart decisions on offense.

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Most importantly, he showed confidence.

The list of 36 invitees was trimmed to 17 finalists on June 12 and when the 12-player roster for the FIBA U17 World Championship was announced, Quickley had earned a coveted spot. The tournament, taking place in Zaragoza, Spain, began June 23 and runs through July 3.

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Team USA is 4-0 and next plays South Korea on Thursday in the medal quarterfinals. Quickley has played in three games and is averaging 3.0 points, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 20 minutes. He has shot just 2-for-13 so far, but just making the team was a major step.

"I put a lot of hard work in at the gym and with that work a lot of confidence has grown within me as a player on and off the court," Quickley said. "I was confident pretty much the whole time … really wasn't nervous or worried about anything. I've met a lot of new friends and the process has been great."

The process was also new to Quickley, who set out to play hard on every possession and show he could work through any adversity.

"Immanuel came in kind of a little bit of an unknown. We saw him a lot this spring, but he wasn't a part of our training camp last year. So, there are guys who are in that situation, they come in a little bit behind the eight ball in that they haven't experienced playing with 38 really, really good players," USA coach Don Showalter said. "Having said that, I thought Immanuel stepped up his game a lot. Defensively, he really helps us. He's long and he anticipates well. He's learning how to play point guard and running the team. I think that's really important for these kids because sometimes the point guard on their high school or AAU team is not the same as being a point guard with four other really good players on a USA Basketball team. So, he's learning to get everybody involved and running the offense."

Highly touted coming to John Carroll as a freshman, Quickley showed promise as an understudy, playing and learning behind a senior backcourt in his first season. Shortly after it was over, John Carroll coach Tony Martin sat him down and told him it was now his team.

He showed it by averaging 17.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game in his first season as a full-time starter.

And he showed it the most on Feb. 29, when the Patriots were trailing Mount Saint Joseph by two points in the closing seconds of the Baltimore Catholic League championship game at Towson University.

Everybody at SECU Arena knew the ball would go to Quickley and he delivered a 3-point shot just before the buzzer to lead the Patriots to a 51-50 win. Rated the country's 19th-best prospect in his 2018 class by ESPN and 22nd by Rivals.com, Quickley called it the best moment of his breakthrough year. While in Colorado, he watched video of the game.

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"It's something I'll never forget," he said. "It's something I'll always be able to share with my teammates. Just being in that moment and having that feeling was really special."

It also could be considered his most important moment on a basketball court — a confidence boost that led to another winning shot a couple weeks later to send John Carroll to the championship game of the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament.

"Just the fact that he wanted the moment and wasn't afraid to fail is a huge thing in athletics and life," said Martin, who stepped down as John Carroll coach in May to take over a program in Wilmington, North Carolina. "And the additional fact that it went in obviously led to another game-winning moment against St. John's at Alhambra. So you begin to accumulate those and what comes of it is him thinking 'Hey, this is the way it's supposed to be and I'm going to be knocking down these shots all the time.'"

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Learning he made the U.S. team wasn't the only good news that has come Quickley's way recently. On June 12, Maryland was added to the growing list of Division I programs to offer him a basketball scholarship. More are on its way as he continues to flourish on the court and classroom, where he maintains a 3.3 GPA.

Tom Strickler, a Maryland-based scout for the National Recruiting Report, a coaches-only service that evaluates high school talent all over the country, was impressed to see Quickley's maturity grow to match his unquestioned skills in the past year.

"His court presence and poise is beyond his years," Strickler said. "What he's done on the court reminds me a lot of [fellow BCL greats] Juan Dixon and Rodney Monroe in that he can take over games and make his shots in crucial spots. He lets the game come to him, takes what he can get and when the moment is right, he seizes it and makes a big play."

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Quickley, who had never left the country before this business trip to Spain, said before he left that he was happy to have some of his family going with him to savor the occasion and watch his continued improvement on the court.

"I think I've grown a lot," he said. "I'm here with the best players in the country. So just knowing that there's nothing I really haven't seen … knowing I can play with the best any time I step on the floor is a really big confidence boost."

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

twitter.com/GlennGrahamSun


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