2014 USA U18 Team Members Seeking To Finish What They Started
After securing a 5-0 record, a FIBA Americas U18 Championship gold medal and a berth to the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship, six members of the 2014 USA Basketball U18 National Team are have reconvened in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to participate in the 2015 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team Trials, which started on Thursday, May 14.
The USA team will compete in the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship from July 18-26 in Chekhov, Russia.
“It would feel great knowing that we played last year to compete for this championship,” Paris Kea (North Carolina/Greensboro, N.C.) said. “This is another opportunity for gold. You want to try to make every team that you tryout for.”
The members of the U18 team at trials for the U19 team include, Napheesa Collier (Incarnate Word Academy/O’Fallon, Mo.), Kea, Beatrice Mompremier (Miami H.S./Miami, Fla.), Mariya Moore (Louisville/Richmond, Calif.), Destinee Walker (Lake Highland Prep/Orlando, Fla.), and the tournament MVP A’ja Wilson (Collegiate School/Richmond, Va.).
All six have attended USA Basketball team trials prior to this weekend’s. Amongst the six, two athletes have been named to other teams including Collier, who was a member of the gold medal winning 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Games Team and Wilson, who was one of the youngest on the USA team that won gold at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.
Yet, there is still a feeling of nervousness that comes with attending team trials in Colorado Springs, particularly amongst 19 athletes who have combined for 29 gold medals playing for USA Basketball.
“This year, it is nerve wracking but having the experience of trying out last year and making the team creates a soft spot where you know you can do it again,” Walker said.
Wilson agrees with Walker, though she adds that the nerves are lessened with her U18 teammates by her side.
“It is going to be the same as the others,” stated Wilson. “I am nervous but at the same time I can use what I have learned in the past of being on the team. It can translate to here, make it more comforting. It does not make the nerves go away though because it is a great group of girls here. I am glad to be out here with them, they really push hard and hustle. They make me better. That is why I come here, to make myself better, while I help them become better too.
“It is weird but at the same time it is helpful because my teammates who helped qualify the USA are here, they are helping me out a ton.”
In addition to easing each other’s nerves, the group of six are teaming up to be leaders of the weekend.
“I will have to be a leader with knowing what it takes to win gold at a world championship level,” said Wilson. “It is different from when we qualified, teams are (going to be) a lot different from what we were playing against in the qualifier even though they were great teams. I was the youngest on the team then but now I am the oldest. It is weird but I hope to bring that leadership, bring what it takes to win a gold medal in a world championship.
“I know how I was when I would be like ‘oh, I know,’ but I didn’t know. I can see that look in their faces. I try to help them through it as it is a lot thrown at you. Luckily I know how the day is going to go, what needs to be accomplished so I can help in that aspect. But some things I don’t know, I still have to ask coaches. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t ask questions, you are not going to learn, you will do it the wrong way rather than learning the right way.”
Though they were not on the 2013 U19 team, the other members of the U18 team share the responsibility of leadership.
“We are the oldest group here, we feel as though we have to show the younger kids, we have to lead them,” stated Kea. “We lead them by motivating them on the court, telling them that you have to communicate at all times, to hustle and fight through adversity.”
With the team being announced on Sunday, they are using this familiarity to their benefit and others, hoping to make another USA Basketball team.
“I would be excited to somewhat finish what we started as a U18 team,” said Mompremier. “I would be happy to make the team if it happens again, and I will definitely work as hard for it as I have for all the teams.”