Been Here Before, But Taking Nothing For Granted
Thirty of the nation’s top 18-and-unders descended upon the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this weekend in hopes of being named to the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team. That number inched up to 31 after one athlete for the USA U17 World Championship Team Trials got bumped up to the U18 trials.
Many of the athletes entered the gym at the USOTC a little nervous about taking part in their first USA Basketball trials, but not Baylor University signee Lauren Cox (Flower Mound H.S./Flower Mound, Texas) or University of Connecticut freshman-to-be Crystal Dangerfield (Blackman H.S./Murfreesboro, Tenn.).
Between the two, they count five gold medals after teaming up on the 2013 USA U16 National Team and 2015 USA U19 World Championship Team. And Cox also won gold at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship.
“It’s really fun playing with Crystal,” said Cox about being back on the court with her two-time USA Basketball teammate. “She’s a great player. From playing with her the past couple years and against her, it’s always really fun.”
And the 5-foot-6 Dangerfield feels the same way about playing alongside the 6-foot-4 Cox again.
“It’s fun,” she said. “Lauren is a great player. I love playing with Lauren. She demands the ball, so that makes a point guard’s job easier. She’s just a great teammate, so having somebody that I’ve been with since my freshman year, the chemistry with that just helps.”
This weekend marks the fourth team trials for each of the veteran standouts, who were two of the youngest athletes on last year’s U19 squad. As such, they approached the trials a little differently than in the past.
“I’m trying to take on a little bit more of a leadership role,” said Dangerfield. “The newcomers, they don’t really know how the international play is just yet, so I’m trying to take the lead, help them out with the plays and everything.”
She’s also doling out advice.
“Nia (Hollie) asked me how it was,” added Dangerfield. “She asked what the other guards are like on other international teams. I was telling her that they’re more physical, they’re bigger than many of the USA guards would be.”
Cox also feels as if she should step up as more of a leader this year.
“My coaches and everybody have been talking to me, just because I do have the experience,” said Cox. “This is kind of like a second home for me. I tried to come out here and be a vocal leader. I’m trying to lead by example, and I’ve been encouraging my teammates and things like that.”
The USA U18 squad will travel to Valdivia, Chile, to compete in the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. Not only is the USA’s streak of seven consecutive U18 gold medals on the line, but the top four finishing teams will earn a berth to the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship.
It’s not a stretch to say that both Cox and Dangerfield very much want to be on that trip. However, despite having been through this type of experience each summer since 2013, they know that it’s not a given.
The waiting game will end in a few hours when the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee makes its final roster decision and they find out if they’ll team up one final time before becoming collegiate foes next year at Baylor and UConn.
“I do feel confident about my game and everything, but these are some really great players, so I definitely feel that I have to prove myself,” said Cox. “There’s a lot of great players out here, good guards, strong posts. So, it’s really competitive for a spot on the team.”
“Yeah, just a little bit,” said Dangerfield when asked if she felt she still had something to prove. “I’m letting other people know that I don’t want my spot taken and I want to earn another gold medal.“It would be huge to make this team,” added Dangerfield. “Going out and having U-S-A across my chest again, representing the country, going for another gold medal, because I know that’s what USA Basketball is all about.