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FIBA U19 World Cup can be ‘springboard’ for Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis, Bennedict Mathurin and Oumar Ballo

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Arizona v Arizona State
Azuolas Tubelis and Bennedict Mathurin
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats held a summer workout in McKale Center on Thursday with a few notable players missing but for good reason.

Sophomores Azuolas Tubelis (Lithuania), Bennedict Mathurin (Canada) and Oumar Ballo (Mali) are in Latvia this week ready to represent their countries at the FIBA U19 World Cup.

All three will be key players for their teams. In a feature on FIBA.com, Tubelis and Ballo were among seven players that “you don’t want to miss” in the event.

Playing on the international circuit should help them hit the ground running when the college basketball season begins in November. They will be a focal point on new head Tommy Lloyd’s first Arizona team. Tubelis and Mathurin are surefire starters. Ballo, a hulking 7-footer who followed Lloyd to Arizona from Gonzaga, could be the first big off the bench.

“Those international FIBA events are great,” Lloyd said Thursday. “There are guys who are competing for their country, so they’re playing with passion, they’re super competitive, and my experience from them is it’s really been a big springboard for a great next season. So I’m looking forward to following those guys. Coach (Jack) Murphy will probably go over and be there in person and watch them.”

Mathurin trained with the Canadian Senior National team this summer too. He barely missed the cut for the Olympic roster but impressed the Canadian coaching staff along the way.

“It’s a great experience and I got great feedback from the coaches and I think they were really impressed with his progress, and I was (too),” Lloyd said. “Benn and I had a really good three- or four-week stint before he took off and I thought he made great progress.”

Missing the Tokyo Olympics could be a blessing in disguise anyway. Mathurin will get to be a featured player on the U19 team instead riding the pine on the Olympic team.

“I think all the kids here (at Arizona) have generally been the best player on their team upon arrival at Arizona, so I don’t know if it’d be any different from any past experiences,” Lloyd said. “That’s kind of what they’ve been their whole life and they get here and they gotta figure out how to play with other really good players.”

Below is when Arizona players will be in action during Group Play. The full U19 World Cup schedule can be found here. Ken Nakagawa, Arizona’s new director of advanced scouting, is a video coordinator for the Japanese team.

Saturday, July 3

  • Group A: Canada (Mathurin) vs. Lithuania (A. Tubelis) - 5 a.m. PT
  • Group D: Mali (Ballo) vs. Australia – 10:30 a.m. PT

Sunday, July 4

  • Group A: Japan vs. Canada (Mathurin) – 2 a.m. PT
  • Group A: Lithuania (Tubelis) vs. Senegal – 5 a.m. PT
  • Group D: United States vs. Mali (Ballo) – 10:30 a.m. PT

Tuesday, July 6

  • Group A: Senegal vs. Canada (Mathurin) – 2 a.m. PT
  • Group A: Lithuania (Tubelis) vs. Japan – 5 a.m. PT
  • Group D: Turkey vs. Mali (Ballo) – 7:30 a.m. PT