Cooper Flagg's rise, D.J. Wagner's struggles and other takeaways from FIBA U17s

D.J. Wagner did not look comfortable at times in the FIBA World Cup event, while playing a different role than usual. courtesy of FIBA

MALAGA, Spain -- The FIBA U17 World Cup -- on hiatus since 2018 due to the COVID pandemic -- returned earlier this month and crowned the U.S. as champions for the sixth straight time since the event's inception. Head coach Sharman White's American team was dominant, winning every game by 40 points on average, and bringing its win total to 44-0 by moving the ball joyously, turning opponents over incessantly and being the best 3-point shooting team at the event.

Spain, which featured its best generation of talent since Pau Gasol, Felipe Reyes and Juan Carlos Navarro beat the U.S. in the FIBA U18 World Championship in 1999, proved a worthy adversary in the gold-medal game, leading 47-40 midway through the third quarter before eventually bowing out 79-67.

The tournament proved to be an emphatic introduction to 15-year-old Cooper Flagg -- possibly the best player ever to come out of the state of Maine -- on the world stage. The 6-foot-8 Flagg made a strong case as the best prospect in high school basketball and a potential No. 1 pick candidate down the road. (For a sense of how important this event can be in projecting future greatness, take a look at some of the participants we covered at the 2018 FIBA U17s.)