After missing the chance to represent the United States in international competition last summer, Germantown resident BeeJay Anya became a world champion on Sunday.
Anya helped the USA Basketball Men's U-17 team finish off an undefeated run and capture the gold medal at the FIBA U-17 World Championships in Lithuania on Sunday.
The U.S. team went 8-0 in the tournament, including a 95-62 victory against Australia in the championship game.
The contest was close in the first quarter, with five lead changes and five ties. But Anya's first two points of the night gave the U.S. the lead for good. The U.S. finished the first quarter on an 8-0 run and led by double digits the rest of the way. The closest Australia could get was a 10-point margin early in the third quarter.
Anya, a rising senior at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville and a recruiting target of many top-tier NCAA programs, had eight points and two rebounds in 14 minutes in the championship game. For the eight-game tournament, the 6-foot-9 Anya averaged 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and added seven blocked shots and six steals.
A year ago, Anya was one of the last players cut from the U.S. U-16 team.
“It feels great, loss for words, speechless,” Anya said in recorded comments posted on USA Basketball's website. “Everything we've been through, we've finally got the gold medal. It's a great feeling. We've worked so hard for it since training camp.”
Though the U.S. won its eight games by an average margin of 39.9 points — including a 69-point blowout victory against China — Anya said it wasn't as easy as it looked.
“Teams came out and gave us their best shot,” he said. “Even though the score wasn't close [against Australia], you watch the game, it was closer than it seemed.
“There's a lot of great competition out here, and we learned a lot. The USA isn't the only place that has hoopers. There's hoopers in Australia. There's hoopers in Spain. There's hoopers everywhere.”
Anya called the world championship the “greatest” accolade he's achieved in basketball.
“[The gold medal] can't go in my house and just hang it up, I have to put it someplace special,” Anya said. “I don't know if I'll ever get one of these again.”
Conner Frankamp was the U.S. team's leading scorer in the tournament, averaging 14.1 points per game. Jahlil Okafor (13.6 ppg) and Jabari Parker (12.6 ppg) also averaged double digits.
Frankamp, a rising senior from Wichita, Kan., had 22 points in the championship game. Okafor, a rising junior from Chicago, had 17 points and eight rebounds.
“It feels wonderful, I can't describe it,” said DeMatha coach Mike Jones, an assistant coach with the U.S. U-17 team. “I'm very proud of the young men, how we fought through a lot. I know the margins of victory it can be a little misleading. We definitely put a lot of hard work put into this and I'm proud to be a part of it.
“Nobody really cared about who was going to get the credit, who scored the points. It was all about us. To be part of something as special as a world championship where there were no egos involved is truly something special.”