Jaelyn Brown Battles For USA Women's U16 Roster Spot
From one of 124 players to start trials for the 2013 USA Basketball Women's U16 National Team on May 23 to one of 43 hopefuls remaining before a 12-member roster is named on the morning of May 27, Jaelyn Brown has her sights set on a USA Basketball jersey.
A 6'1" forward out of Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta, Calif., Brown has been playing basketball since she was 8 or 9 years old, but the past year-and-a-half has seen a rapid rise in her game.
"When my Cal Sparks team decided they wanted me to play for them, then that's when I started getting looks from colleges, and I was like, 'Okay, maybe I got this. I can really turn this into something.' That's when I started to get a broader picture of USA Basketball and college and all of that."
Not even a year after that, an invitation arrived in the mail from the USA Basketball Women's Developmental National Team Committee to attend trials for the USA U16 National Team.
"I was excited," Brown said of her reaction to the USA Basketball invitation. "I was very excited. I was not expecting it at all. I was pleased, and I felt blessed."
Brown knew something of USA Basketball having played on Cal Sparks with Jordin Canada, who helped the USA to a gold medal in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Still, it was her first season of high school basketball as a freshman in 2012-13 that Brown credits with prepping her for trials.
"The first year of high school, it was more structured than I had played before," Brown said. "So, I think it helped because here at USA Basketball, they want us to set it up, run the certain play they want us to run, so it helped in a way."
On day three and four, trials now consist mostly of scrimmages, while the first two days focused mainly on individual skill develpment. For Brown, that pushed her out of position and helped her expand her reportaoire.
"(The skills sessions) helped me, because I worked on my shooting, and I was being versatile," said Brown. "We went to the post --that's not my position, but I still worked on the post."
After at 24 hours to settle into the elevation of Colorado Springs, Colo., which is above 6,000 feet, and instruction from a total of seven coaches at trials, including USA head coach Sue Phillips (Archbishop Mitty H.S., Jose, Calif./San Jose Cagers AAU), assistant coaches Mary Coyle Klinger (Rutgers Preparatory School, Somerset, N.J.) and Brian Robinson (Bishop McGuinness H.S., Kernersville, N.C./Stealers AAU) and court coaches LaDreda Akins (Haines City H.S., Haines City, Fla./Florida’s Finest AAU), Terri Bamford (LaJolla Country Day, La Jolla, Calif./Waves AAU), Kimberly Davis-Powell (Essence Girls Basketball AAU, Tallahassee, Fla.) and Vanessa Nygaard (Windward School, Los Angeles, Calif.), the focus shifted to live play.
"That's my favorite out of everything is scrimmaging," Brown said. And she was able to apply what she had learned from the skills sessions into the scrimmages, "I posted up. I used different moves to get open in the paint."
Since Brown has taken the game of basketball more seriously over the past year, she, of course, has taken her training more seriously, too.
"There are ups and downs that happen, but I always want to keep on practicing to be the best," Brown said. "I always want to be in the gym. People call me a gym rat all the time."
Here at trials, Brown is surrounded by basketball players just like her -- gym rats.
"I actually like staying at the (U.S. Olympic) Training Center because I get to meet new people," Brown said. "It's easy to talk to them. We go to each other's rooms. We are all very friendly with each other. It's very cool. My roomate, DeJanae Boykin, we have a lot in common. We kind of play the same in a way."
Brown knows she was invited to trials for a reason, and she doesn't hesitate when asked what her strengths are.
"My rebounding for sure," Brown said. "Jumping up and getting the ball, and my shooting -- it's gotten a lot better from last year."
Despite having confidence in her game, Brown admits it is nerve-wracking being one of 124 players competing for 12 roster spots.
"I don't try to get my hopes up, so I'm just taking it as it goes," said Brown. "I try to not let my nerves get to me on the court. Before I play, that's when the nerves kick in. Once I start playing, I settle down."
It is easy to understand why a player would feel nervous, and for Brown, some of that pressure is in the hopes that she doesn't dissapoint her supporters back in California.
"It would mean everything to make the team, because it is such a big deal back home," Brown said. "Everybody knows. They are waiting for me to make it. So, it would mean a lot to me."
Regardless, though, Brown has perspective on the experience no matter the outcome.
"Just to be out here, I'm so blessed to be here."