Chemistry Fuels Youth Olympic Women’s Basketball Team In Quest For Gold
Colorado Springs, Colorado
The 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Women’s Basketball Team concluded training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, yesterday; thus beginning their journey to the 2014 Youth Olympic Games scheduled for Aug.16-28, in Nanjing, China.
Four years ago, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore. Now contested every four years, the 2014 YOG will be the second time this event is held, and a total of 28 sports are on this year’s schedule.
The basketball competition at the Youth Olympic Games is a 3x3 format organized by the International Olympic Committee and FIBA. The 2014 Youth Olympic Games is expected to include 20 men's teams and 20 women's teams, as well as a Shootout for women and a Dunk Contest for men. Each team is comprised of four players, and athletes eligible for this competition must have been born between Jan. 1, 1996 and Dec. 31, 1997.
Comprising the U.S. Youth Olympic Women’s Basketball Team is a foursome of USA Basketball veterans.
Two-time USA Basketball gold medalist De’Janae Boykin (Charles H. Flowers H.S./Springdale, Md.), gold medalist Napheesa Collier (Incarnate World Academy/O’Fallon, Mo.) and three-time USA Basketball gold medalists Arike Ogunbowale (Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S./Milwaukee, Wis.) and Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei H.S./Huntington Beech, Calif.), are set to represent the USA and compete for the Youth Olympics gold medal when they kick off competition on Aug.18 against Romania.
The format of 3x3 basketball differs from that of 5-on-5 in several ways, primarily in it being a 10-minute game with a 12-second shot clock, while having only three players on a each team and playing in a half-court. These changes can be daunting, but to 3x3 veteran Ogunbowale, it’s about mental toughness.
“It’s more of a mental toughness approach,” Ogunbowale said. “It’s only two other people with you on the court that will help you, and you have to work as a team, yet be strong individually, too. It can be easier than five-on-five basketball because of the smaller group of people that you need to connect with, but also more challenging because it’s only three of you at once in a half-court setting.”
The U.S. women’s team training camp consisted of three intense days of two-a-days practices at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where they focused on endurance, drills and shooting. They also scrimmaged a group of local high school boys daily in order to prepare for the physicality and high-intensity tempo they are going to face abroad.
“They’ve been really good,” said Ogunbowale when asked about their practice sessions. “Scrimmaging the boys has helped a lot because they’re tough, and it forces us to play even tougher than we normally would.”
Despite only having three days of preparations before departing to China, the team looks and feels ready, and this is perhaps due to a much bigger and intangible factor that is hard to account for - their incredible chemistry
“Having chemistry helps a lot because knowing them means I know I can rely on them, and I know their strengths and weaknesses,” shared Samuelson. “I’ve played with Arike and De’Janae in U17 and U16, and Napheesa is going to college with me. This is such a great group of girls. We get along so well, and we’re very versatile so I think we’re going to be really good.”
Boykin, Ogunbowale and Samuelson quickly bonded and became friends last summer when they all participated in the USA Basketball U16 National Team Trials. The trio went on to be selected to the U16 national team that won the gold medal at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mexico. In addition, Ogunbowale and Samuelson also teamed up a second time in 2013 to compete and earn the gold at the 2013 FIBA 3X3 U18 World Championship.
In 2014, Boykin, Ogunbowale and Samuelson reunited once again as they suited up for the USA and earned another gold medal after finishing with a 7-0 record this past June at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
“We’ve played with each other for two years, and we know where each other likes the ball and our strengths and weakness; we mesh well together,” Ogunbowale said of feeling comfortable around her teammates.
Collier is the newcomer in the group, however, her USA Basketball familiarity has made her a smooth addition.
Collier was part of the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team that won gold on Aug. 10 at the USA-Basketball hosted 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women. She averaged a team second-best 14.0 points per game, as well as a team-leading 8.6 rebounds per game.
In Colorado Springs since July 25, Collier has been training at a high-level for about three weeks now, which she believes has only helped her make the transition onto 3-on-3 easier.
“It was easy to make the shift from five-on-five and come to train with these girls; it’s fun to be here and play with them,” said Collier.
“It was easy for Napheesa to come in because she’s a really good player, a smart player, and it was easy for her to get into our rhythm,” Ogunbowale agreed.
Boykin believes that the tight bond they share is what is going to help them be successful.
”It’s fun to have the girls with me. Katie Lou and Arike, we’ve been playing together for a while, and bringing Napheesa has been a great addition,” Boykin said. “We genuinely like each other, and we’re just coming out to play hard.”
Furthermore, Boykin, Collier and Samuelson have all give verbal commitments to attend and play at the University of Connecticut in 2015-16, giving them yet another special detail to share and bring them closer together.
“It’s amazing, being able to go this this event with my favorite people is incredible,” Samuelson said. “You are going to be there with so many other different athletes from different sports, and we get to stay in the Olympic village. I’m very excited to do this.”
Just like in the Olympics, athletes will live in a village with other athletes from around the world. They will dine together in the cafeteria and march into the stadium together at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
“I’m excited to go to China. I was looking at their twitter page and saw all of the facilities, and it’s going to be a great experience. There’s going to be a lot of sports, and we can watch them compete. These are possible future Olympians, so I’m really excited,” Ogunbowale said.
The U.S. team will be led by head coach Dori Oldaker (Mt. Lebanon H.S., Pa.), who conducted training camp, but as per 3x3 rules, will not be allowed to coach during games.
“They have really started to play well and had some great practices; we’re ready,” Oldaker said. “This is going to be an amazing experience. With the talent and the amazing young ladies we have, it’s going to be phenomenal.”
The USA women have been placed in Group B for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, along with Andorra, Belgium, Czech Republic, Egypt, Guam, Indonesia, Romania, Taiwan and Thailand. Playing in Group A will be Brazil, China, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Syria and Venezuela.
Follow the 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Women’s Basketball Team on their road to gold using #YouthOlympics, and on the official USA Basketball website usab.com and app, now available for free download. Stay connected with us on facebook.com/usabasketball, twitter.com/usabasketball, plus.google.com/+usabasketball,instagram.com/usabasketball and youtube.com/usab.
Also, watch coverage of all 28 sports live and on VOD on several platforms, including Olympic.org, Olympic.tv, YouTube.com/Olympics and via the Olympic TV App, and in China with CNTV and CCTV apps. You can also visit the Youth Olympic Games’ official website: Nanjing2014.com