Kristine Anigwe Seeks Redemption
Six-foot-4 center Kristine Anigwe (Desert Vista H.S/Phoenix, Ariz.) is in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this week, training alongside 11 teammates as a member of the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship Team.
“It’s going good.” Anigwe said after just two practice sessions. “We are just getting used to each other, getting used to how each other plays. With the scrimmages today, it felt good. It was brand new.”
The USA team was named following three days of trials on May 17, and then gathered to begin training camp on June 30. After practicing at the United States Olympic Training Center twice a day nearly every day, the team will depart on July 8 to play three exhibition games in Spain, before traveling to Chekhov, Russia, for the 16-team 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship.
In some ways, Anigwe has experience to help her on the U19 team. She won a gold medal last summer with the 2014 USA Women’s U17 World Championship Team in Czech Republic, and a silver medal at the 2015 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship in Hungary just a few weeks ago.
“I just learned how to play half court more, knowing where everyone is,” Anigwe said of her 3x3 experience. “We had shooters, we had people who were fast and skilled, we had a great point guard, so playing with them helped me know how they like their screens and where they like the ball at. It was just really incredible.”
Against France in the 3x3 U18 World Championship gold medal game, the USA had a 12-9 lead midway through the 10-minute game before France made a run and took an 18-15 lead with 2:18 to go. The USA battled back to tie the game at 18-18 and 19-19. France made a game-winning free throw with 17 seconds remaining.
“It was disappointing, because we had it,” Anigwe said. “It just shows how good international teams are. You can’t just go in there thinking you are going to get a gold.
“I felt like if we just had one more minute.”
What are new experiences for Anigwe are the three college coaches leading the team, including USA head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina head coach and USA Women’s National Team assistant coach) and assistant coaches Kim Barnes Arico (Michigan) and Jeff Walz (Louisville), as well as teammates and daily competition that includes six rising college sophomores.
“This year, I am one of the youngest. I am learning from them. They already have a year of college under their belt. So, the learning and the experience are really good.
“It’s hard,” Anigwe admitted. “They are just more physical and smart. So, you can’t just do the same things you have been doing. You have to adjust to what they are doing. They just know the game more. You have to watch and talk a lot more.”
Anigwe wrapped up her senior year of high school in 2014-15, averaging 21.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game to help Desert Vista to the Arizona Division I state semifinals. She was a 2015 McDonald’s All-American, a USA Today and Naismith All-America second team selection and Arizona’s Gatorade State Player of the Year.
In 2015-16, she will attend and play basketball at the University of California, where she already has begun the process of getting to know her new teammates, coaches and school.
“I was at Cal for a couple of weeks, and then I was training in Arizona and Kentucky,” Anigwe said of the past few months. “I came in (to training camp) feeling good. I came in feeling strong, but it’s just different.
“I haven’t really settled in anywhere, because I have been everywhere. I haven’t really got a chance to sit back and stay in one place for more than like two weeks or a month. I’m just everywhere. I’ve been really busy. It’s really fun, though.”
Anigwe said she does try to take good care of herself, and playing the game she loves provides plenty of motivation to do so.
“I’ve always had like really good – nutritionist, trainers, I’ve always really had good people around me to help me stay mentally strong, physically strong. I’m really grateful for that. I just love playing basketball, so that helps keep me playing and injury free.”
Anigwe also is not the youngest player on the 2015 USA Women’s U19 World Championship Team – three other players also are heading to various colleges this upcoming season and two more have a year of high school left.
The entire group is focused on one thing – winning the USA’s sixth-straight gold medal at the event.
“You just have to try your best,” Anigwe said of her focus during training camp. “I’m just trying to do everything right.
“Whatever they tell me, I just do it. The role part, you don’t really know yet. You are learning every single day, it’s like brand new. So once everything starts clicking together, it’s just going to become easier.”
This time, Anigwe has extra motivation to push herself. The taste she still has in her mouth is that of silver.
“I just feel like we need to redeem ourselves from the 3x3 silver. It just makes you hungrier to work hard and just to go after it. We know that the competition is going to be tough, so you just have to have that mindset.”