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Canadian Roundup: 2024 FIBA U18 AmeriCup X’s and O’s

X's and O's Deep Dive for Canada's U18 Squad.

The 2024 FIBA U18 AmeriCup marked a big shift for Canada Basketball’s Junior Men’s Team. The program, which has already dipped into the rich Spanish repository of coaches for the SMNT (Jordi Fernández) and SWNT (Víctor Lapeña), hired Ramón Díaz to lead the U18 squad in Argentina. Díaz, who has served as the HC of the Mexico City Capitanes (a standalone G-League franchise) for the past 5 years and an assistant coach for the Mexican National Team at the 2014 World Cup brought with him an unprecedented amount of professional basketball experience to the Junior Team.

Given Díaz’s professional coaching experience, I was paying close attention throughout the tournament to his tactical approach. From his foundational offensive sets to defensive adjustments, I came away generally impressed with Díaz’s schemes, especially when considering he was coaching high school prospects with a short ramp up time (I believe 0 exhibition games were played, only a short training camp). There were some rotation decisions that were non-optimal, especially early on in the tournament, but Diaz rightfully tightened it as Canada got deeper into the knockout stages. As it stands currently, Ramón Díaz will return next summer when this cohort competes at the FIBA U19 World Cup. With his initial showing at the U18 AmeriCup earlier this month, I’m excited to see the changes he makes with more continuity and familiarity under his belt.

“To be able to win a medal is a great honour. We will continue to build on this moment and come back stronger next year for Worlds”

Ramón Díaz

Offensive Sets

“4 Flip”

Over the years, I’ve written quite extensively about this quickhitter action. It started with Nurse running it for Pascal Siakam in Toronto, running it for RJ Barrett with the SMNT in 2021 and Bjorkgren running it for Jackson Rowe in the February 2025 AmeriCup Qualifier window.

“4 Flip” works well when the team has a legitimate downhill wing threat, and works to get them moving downhill with momentum, without the individual player having to create for himself to get downhill initially. For the U18 team, HC Díaz identified Efeosa Oliogu as that downhill threat, and spammed “4 Flip” when Oliogu was on the floor, consistently generating advantages in the halfcourt. While Barrett’s “4 Flip” was run solely to get him to his dominant left hand, I thought it was interesting that Canada was willing to run this quickhitter for Oliogu going to either hand.

“Point” Series

Another action I’ve written about a lot in the past, the “Point” Series is inspired by Princeton concepts. It formed the foundation of Jordi Fernández’s offensive system with Canada at the World Cup and prioritized playing through the C position as a playmaking hub.

Díaz’s “Point” Series was a little different as the ball rarely entered the elbow. Instead, the first option was just a simple step-up “Angle” PnR with 5-out spacing.

The second progression (“UCLA Empty”) from Canada was something the SMNT actually ran in Window 1 of the 2025 AmeriCup Qualifiers. This time the ball swings to the corner and the passer then receives a “UCLA” screen to cut to the basket. The end goal of this action is an “Empty” PnR, where the screener can roll into a fully empty side of the floor.

“Slice”

Slice” action refers to a backscreen set for a player on the wing, and is usually used to manufacture a post-up possession on the low block. At the U18 AmeriCup, “Slice” was run exclusively for Jaion Pitt, whose craft playing off of 2 fueled an efficient post-up game (stay tuned as Josh Codinera will have a deep dive into this microskill in the next Canadian Roundup). Given Canada lacked consistent halfcourt creation from everyone not named Efeosa Oliogu, getting Pitt deep post position was invaluable for keeping the offense afloat.

One wrinkle that Díaz drew up was “Slice Stagger”, which had the offense flow into staggered screens for the weakside corner if the initial post entry pass couldn’t be made. The player in the weakside corner was often Spencer Ahrens in this action. who was one of Canada’s better shooters. Overall, I think Díaz did a good job of choosing actions that played to the strengths of his best players. consistently putting them in positions to succeed.

“Snap” Series

By far Canada’s most run action of the tournament, this quickhitter was all about setting up a high PnR. I find youth players often struggle with screen navigation, so adding an extra DHO before reversing back into some PnR action heavily exploits that weakness. In addition, unlike “4 Flip” and “Slice” this action could be run by any primary ball handler on the team, although starting PG Justus Haesely saw most of the usage.

As an aside, that initial setup DHO was also a staple in Nick Nurse’s offense with the SMNT. The Nurse teams however would flow into a “Wide Pindown” rather than just a vanilla PnR up top.

Defensive Schemes

Throughout the tournament, Díaz had Canada play relatively conservative schemes on the defensive end. Aside from the bigs (Olivier Rioux, Marial Akuentok, Matt Dann) who mainly played drop, Canada was pretty comfortable switching any screening actions on the perimeter. Under Díaz, Canada was very intentional with the direction they shaded ball handlers towards in the PnR. In general, Canada’s POA defenders tried to shepherd opposing ball handlers away from the screen, even if it meant towards the middle of the floor. A lot of “Weak” and “Ice” coverages in the gameplan. As with any scheme, there’s vulnerabilities and Canada was susceptible to opposing bigs flipping the screen at the last moment allowing the ball handler to use the screen in the end.

In the Quarter-Finals matchup against Brazil, Díaz, who had a full day prior to gameplan came out much more aggressive plugging the gaps, especially from one pass away. Aggressively helping at the nail and rotating from the strongside to dig or take charges were especially evident adjustments upon my rewatch. Given that Brazil struggled shooting from the outside (2nd last in tournament, 24.6%), willingly bringing help from one pass away and then recovering when possible was a smart decision.