Natalie Chou And Lauren Cox Primed To Capitalize On U17 Adventure
Colorado Springs, Colorado
On May 26, after four days of intense trial sessions that began with 145 players, Natalie Chou (Plano West Senior H.S./Plano, Texas) and Lauren Cox (Flower Mound H.S./Flower Mound, Texas) were chosen as two of the 12 members of the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team, which will represent the USA in the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship for women on June 28-July 6 in the Czech Republic.
Exactly 17 days later, they are back at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the USA team commences training camp in Colorado Springs through June 18, when it departs for France for three exhibition games and eventually making their way to the U17 World Championship.
Before getting down to business, however, Chou and Cox returned home after that happy day on May 26 and resumed the lives of any other 16-year-old – meaning they celebrated their new titles as USA Basketball team members and got back to finishing the school year.
“When I got home there were like 50 people at my house, and they had decorated the house in red, white and blue,” said Cox. “There were posters and everything. It was exciting, and I was so happy, but I also was exhausted.”
For Chou the celebration was a little more intimate and only involved her and a couple of her friends.
“Right after (trials), my friends picked me up from the airport, and we went to one of my friends’ house, and then we just ate.”
After the thrill of knowing they made the roster, the reality hit again: school was waiting for them.
“I went back to school and just finished my sophomore year of high school,” Chou said while Cox nodded in agreement next to her. “And I passed all of my finals. I did really well,” Chou continued. “I did too,” Cox interjected.
With half of their high school careers successfully behind them, Chou and Cox can now focus on their next goal and the task ahead, which is to win a gold medal in the Czech Republic.
Both Chou and Cox said they understand the importance and pride that comes with representing the United States, which is why they have been hard at practice ever since they found out that they were officially part of the team.
“I’ve been training with my coach and going to the rec center,” Cox said. “I’ve also been playing five-on-five and just shooting around.”
For her part, Chou has been training with her biggest supporter by her side, her mom, who also happens to be her skills coach.
“I’ve been practicing a lot with my mom and just working out a lot every day.”
Chou’s mom is not only her daughter’s coach, but she also played basketball herself and was even a member of the Chinese National Team at one point; a cool bond that she and Chou can share as they both earned the chance to represent their countries.
“It’s really exciting,” Chou shared. “And I’ve never been to Europe, only China, so it’s going to be fun.”
Cox also will be making her first trip to Europe.
“I’m pretty excited to go on this journey,” Cox said. “It’s an awesome opportunity for a 16-year-old to do this because not many get the chance.”
But perhaps, the experience they both are most excited about is the next couple of days, when it will be just them and the rest of their teammates training hard, while sharing laughs and memories in the dorms and at practices.
The competition will arrive and the fire to compete will ignite, of that they are absolutely sure.
But for now, Chou and Cox are excited to get back on the court alongside some of their best friends.
Cox was a member of the USA U16 National Team that won the gold medal last summer, so she knows how close an athlete's bond can be with her team.
“I made pretty good friends last year. I can’t wait to make more new friends this year,” Cox said with a smile on her face.
They know that training comes first, but it’s easy to forget. After all, these are very talented young women having a good time while also balancing training and aiming to win a gold medal.
Chou and Cox seemed to have balance. They are having fun, but they also are in it to win it.
For an athlete of any age, that is an accomplishment in and of itself.