Caroline Coyer Relishing Opportunity to Represent USA Basketball
For Villanova guard Caroline Coyer (Oak Hill, Va.), the highlight of training camp for the 2015 U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team has been playing alongside 11 of the best collegiate players in the country.
“The most fun part is playing with all of these really talented players,” said Coyer. “I’ve obviously played with a lot of talented players over the years. This is by far the most talented group. I know that if one person doesn’t bring it one day, someone else will. Everyone is so good. Getting to know everyone on and off the court has been really awesome.”
There are, of course, challenges to training camp, and for Coyer the biggest hurdle is being a USA Basketball rookie and one of just three players who had not before attended at least a USA Basketball trials – not to mention the seven gold medalists who are on the team.
“I think the hardest thing for me is coming into an environment where a lot of the girls have either been here, played with each other or know each other, and me having done none of those,” said Coyer. “I’m finding my place, finding my role, keeping up with the speed and strength of play and just adapting to all of that.
“I think I’m doing okay. Obviously, it’s tough. Training camp has been hard. We’ve had two, nearly three-hour practices every day. Some practices I feel great, and some practices I don’t as feel as good. But there are ups and down in every journey. Overall I think that I’m doing okay.”
It seems that the mental toughness to compete at an elite level may run in Coyer’s family. Her father, Chris Coyer, played football at the University of Minnesota, her twin sister, Katherine, also is a member of the Villanova women's basketball team, and her brother, Chris, was a quarterback at Temple University from 2009- 2013.
One of the things Coyer already is looking forward to is sharing her recent experiences with her sister, and her Villanova teammates.
“Not just with my sister, with my whole team,” Coyer said. “A lot of the things that I’ve learned here, playing against these players who are so talented and go to the (NCAA) tournament year after year I want to share.”
Though Coyer may not have any USA Basketball gold medals, she certainly has an impressive resume to her name. A 2015 All-Big East Conference first team member and the 2014 Big East Sixth Man of the Year, Coyer also had a stellar prep campaign at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. She is the all-time assist leader in Virginia 3A basketball and was the second player in Virginia history to register 1,500 points and 500 assists. Her jersey was retired at Oakton and currently is hanging in the National Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Rather than looking back, however, Coyer is focused on what she can accomplish in the future.
“Villanova, we are trying to make the next step up,” she explained. “We are trying to become that annual tournament team, and I think that a lot of these things that I’ve learned here from these players and coaches, too – obviously really awesome coaches – I can take back with me and hopefully help us take the next step in the next few years.
“Not many Villanova players get to come and do this, so I know I have the whole Nova nation behind me, and I know I have a lot of friends and family back home that are keeping in touch, texts, phone calls. I have a lot of people supporting me.
“You definitely don’t want to let anyone down, and you want to make everyone proud, so that definitely helps.”
What it helps with is getting Coyer through two practices a day under the direction of U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team head coach Lisa Bluder (Iowa) and USA assistant coaches Michelle Clark-Heard (Western Kentucky) and Scott Rueck (Oregon State).
“I know no matter what my role is, no matter what I’m doing out here, it has to be 100 percent. We only have a short amount of time to do this and represent the USA. I’m going to go full out whenever I’m out here.”
There was a time when Coyer might have considered working for the chance to wear a different USA jersey. Also a four-year soccer player at Oak Hill, it was a United States Soccer Federation U15 camp that gave her a newfound perspective on her future.
“When I was 15, I went to the U15 (soccer) camp out in L.A. at the Home Depot Center,” said Coyer. “When I went out there, it was the same as this (USA Basketball) – everyone is really good and takes it very seriously. I don’t think I was quite at that level mentally, soccer-wise, so when they invited me back for the 17s, I did decline. Not because I didn’t like the coaches or I didn’t like the experience, it was an awesome experience. I think it just made me re-evaluate my priorities. I think that is when I decided I wanted to play basketball in college. I realized where my heart was.”
Years later it seems obvious that Coyer chose the right path for herself as she prepares to represent the United States at the 2015 Pan American Games.
On July 8, Coyer and her teammates departed for the competition in Toronto, Canada. The USA’s first contest is against Brazil on July 16.
“I really want to just be a positive voice,” said Coyer.” I know I’m not going to be the go-to player on this team. I really want to be that person that is going to bring a lot of energy when I go into the game – hit a few shots, be consistent in shooting, play good defense and never let up on either end of the floor; to be able to go in for people like Mo (Moriah Jefferson) when she needs a breather and there be no let-up, for the energy level to stay up high. And when she comes back in for me, it’s like nothing ever changed.”
Follow Coyer and the U.S. team on Twitter at #USABwpag.
---USA versus Brazil at 9 p.m. EDT on July 16
USA versus Dominican Republic at 9 p.m. EDT on July 17
USA versus Puerto Rico at 9 p.m. on July 18
Semifinals on July 19
Finals on July 2