2014 USA 3x3 National Championship
Colorado Springs, Colo.
May 9-11
2014 USA 3x3 National Championship
Colorado Springs, Colo.
May 9-11

USA Women Prepare For Inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship

July 14, 2010 • Rodez, France

In just 10 days, the 2010 USA Women's U17 World Championship Team has trained in three countries and won an exhibition tournament crown in Alagon, Spain. In just two days, the USA will open preliminary round play in the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women against the host country France before a sold out crowd of approximately 2,300.

The team has traveled by plane, bus and by foot, and is finally settled in Rodez, France, where Group A, which includes Canada, Japan, Russia and Turkey in addition to the USA and France, will complete the preliminary round of the tournament.

Following practice on July 14, USABasketball.com caught up with several of the players as well as USA head coach Barbara Nelson (Wingate University) to hear how the team is doing, about their experiences thus far and whether they will be ready for world championship play on the 16th.

Barbara Nelson
(USA and Wingate University head coach)

How has the team responded to such a demanding first 10 days?
We are making improvements, which is important to see that we keep moving in the right direction. I still think at times our focus is off. It's taking us longer to remember and execute things than I would like, so we've got to continue to study our plays and know where we are supposed to be so that we can get their the first time.

What things have you done to keep the team well rested?
Well, we have had movie night, which they all seemed to enjoy. We are in a very beautiful place. There is a cathedral close by, all the shops are close by, so we don't have to walk a long way to get anywhere. Letting them explore the city a little bit hasn't been tremendously taxing on their legs because we are in such close vicinity to everything. I think that has been really important because they have been able to enjoy part of the city without it being too tiring.

Do you feel settled here in Rodez?
I do, and I hope they do. They seem to be. They seem very comfortable with each other and comfortable with the surroundings.

You have one more practice before you start the preliminary round of the world championship, is this team ready?
We better be ready. I am very hopeful that pool play will continue to solidify our preparation. I don't feel 100 percent prepared. We need to begin to click. Our chemistry is good, but our timing offensively needs to begin to click. So, hopefully by the end of pool play we will have put ourselves in a good position to make a run in the medal round and at that point be clicking on all cylinders.

We have known for a week or so that the USA's first game, which is against host France, is sold out. How do you think that crowd might affect this team?
I think it's going to be the most people that most of these young ladies have ever played in front of. Regardless of their high schools and AAU experiences, I doubt that most of them have played in front of this many people. My understanding is there has been more tickets sold than seats, so they are trying to bring in extra seats, and it's going to be crowded, it's going to be loud and it's going to be in favor of France. When we went to France's exhibition game the other night, it was not sold out and it was very loud. I can't imagine what it will be like when it's sold out. It would be nice if we feed off of it. We will not understand the cheers, so maybe we can pretend they are cheering for us.

How is the team off the court?
The team likes each other off the court. They have meshed very well. Sometimes too much, which has forced us to put them in competitive situations constantly so that they don't back off of each other. We have been together for a while now, and to my knowledge we have not had our first spat, so the chemistry is very good off the court, and we need to make sure it stays that way on the court.

For you personally, what has been the most enjoyable part of this experience so far?
I would have to say getting to visit other countries and see how other people live, how other people eat, how other people travel. Even though our bus ride the other day was almost 12 hours, which sounds terrible, our kids handled it really well and had a great time. We were on the bus with the Australians, and our kids mixed with them and had a great time and learned a lot about each other. To me, that's been the most fun up to this point. Now, when we get to the games, we will have another focus, but off the court that has certainly been a fun experience.

Bashaara Graves
(Clarksville H.S./Clarksville, TN)

How do you feel physically after such a demanding schedule up to this point?
Well, I'm sore, but it is all just getting us ready to win, so it's worth it. I kind of miss home, and I miss my mom mostly.

Do you think this team will be ready to play on the 16th?
I think we are ready, we just need a few tweaks here and there and we will be ok.

What have you done to stay rested?
Slept, eaten healthy, not much junk food and I have drank a lot of water.

Do you feel settled in Rodez?
It's not home, but I feel like I'm used to it. I think I've gotten to know the area a little bit.

We have known for a week or so that the USA's first game, which is against host France, is sold out. How do you think that crowd might affect this team?
I think it will hype us up. It will prepare us for anything down the line. So, I think we will be excited about it, and we will play well.

For you personally, what has been the most enjoyable part of this experience so far?
I think the most fun thing has been hanging out with the team and just being overseas. I've never been overseas before, and this is a great opportunity for me.

Bria Smith
(Christ the King H.S./Massapequa, NY)

How do you feel physically after such a demanding schedule up to this point?
I feel good. It's just a lot of work, but I feel good.

What have you done to stay rested?
Pretty much, stay with Lisa (our athletic trainer) and ice up the things that hurt, and then getting a lot of rest and eating good food.

Do you feel settled in Rodez?
I feel settled. The time difference isn't bothering me at all. I feel very settled, and the food is good.

Do you think this team will be ready to play on the 16th?
I feel so. I feel like we are ready. I think our intensity improved (after losing in Spain). The way that we work in practice is way harder, and we are working on our defense a lot more in practice, so I think in the games that will translate.

We have known for a week or so that the USA's first game, which is against host France, is sold out. How do you think that crowd might affect this team?
I don't know because we haven't had a crowd yet, but I think that it won't bother us at all. It will just be like they are not even there.

For you personally, what has been the most enjoyable part of this experience so far?
Well, I love being around all the girls, just having fun. Traveling I love a lot. And playing basketball of course.

Imani Stafford
(Winward H.S./Los Angeles, CA)

How do you feel physically after such a demanding schedule up to this point?
I'm actually surprised. I'm recuperating well. I'm definitely tired. The time difference is still hitting me, and I know every time I get a chance I sleep.

What have you done to stay rested?
Every day when I wake up, I go get myself a good meal. I have snacks in my room, too, so I make sure I'm eating every now and then, and I'm taking naps, plenty of naps.

Do you feel settled in Rodez?
Yeah, I really like the town. It's a beautiful town, and everything is kind of close to where we are staying. Unlike in Spain, when we had to go further to get anywhere.

Do you think this team will be ready to play on the 16th?
I think we will. I think we are really excited. We all have figured out our personnel and our positions, and we know who does what. We are all kind of stepping in knowing what we need to do to win.

We have known for a week or so that the USA's first game, which is against host France, is sold out. How do you think that crowd might affect this team?
Honestly, we all come from big high school programs and we're all the stars of our teams, so I don't think the pressure is going to get to us. I think if anything, it's going to get us even more hyped up for the game.

For you personally, what has been the most enjoyable part of this experience so far?
I guess my personal highlight was getting the first win as USA and playing, being able to say I won a game and I'm playing for the national team.