Game Time For Mercedes Russell
Mercedes Russell (Tennessee/Springfield, Ore.) has been preparing for game day for more than a year.
“I have been trying to make my workouts game-like,” said Russell. “Just making them hard and enduring because I have not played a game in over a year and a half. I am excited though, because this will be the first time Diamond (DeShields) and I will play in a game. It is good to get that under our belt, just to get the feeling back because it has been a long time.”
After surgery on both feet, the two-time USA Basketball gold medalist rehabbed and practiced during her redshirt season. But missing the game, Russell participated in the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s World University Games team trials in mid-May.
“I thought it would be good to get the opportunity to play with the best players from the best colleges. I made the team, then I was like, ‘yes, I will have a month and a half to practice and compete with the best players to compete for gold with some great teammates.’
“I think the whole part of getting to play games really was good for me because it gave me a chance to get up and down the court and get that game like feeling back,” Russell continued. “If I had not tried out, I would not have that.”
Russell was named to the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team on May 17, along with Tennessee teammate DeShields, a four-time USA Basketball gold medalist. The World University Games Team also features; Jordin Canada (UCLA/Los Angeles, Calif.), Nina Davis (Baylor/Memphis, Tenn.), Chanise Jenkins (DePaul/Chicago, Ill.), Brionna Jones (Maryland/Havre de Grace, Md.), Erica McCall (Stanford/Bakersfield, Calif.), Aerial Powers (Michigan State/Detroit, Mich.), Courtney Range (California/Manteca, Calif.), Sydney Wiese (Oregon State/Phoenix, Ariz.) and Courtney Williams (South Florida/Folkston, Ga.)
The team returned to Colorado Springs for training camp on June 19.
“It is helping me getting back in shape, running up and down the court at this fast pace because the shot clock is only 24 seconds,” Russell said of training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “You have to get up and down a lot. It is really fast and the competition is really high, which I think helps a lot.”
For Russell, training is bringing back memories of her previous experiences at the 2012 USA U17 World Championship and 2011 USA U16 National Team that competed in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
“It is crazy, just remembering how the competition was the other times I played USA Basketball. It is very quick and physical. You are playing against the best people in other countries, so it always amazing competition.”
Though Russell has competed on other USA Basketball teams, she feels the journey with this team will be unique.
“I think the experience as a whole will be different. I am playing with the best people from the best colleges in South Korea, somewhere I have never been. It will be a whole new experience. It (the competition) will have an athlete’s village, which is new. It will be fun. “
Russell and the USA World University Games team will begin competition Sunday, July 5 in Guangiu, South Korea, where they will see if the preparation was enough to extend the USA’s gold medal steak, which currently stands at three-straight titles.