Talented Prospects Headline 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team Trials
With 143 athletes, including 36 invited players and 107 applicants, set to compete in the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team Trials beginning on May 26, it will take a monumental effort to whittle down the roster to 12 players for the 2016 USA Women’s U17 World Championship Team.
The trials are being utilized to select the team that will represent the United States at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women that will take place June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain. The USA will compete in Group C with Czech Republic, Italy and South Korea. The first game will tip-off against Czech Republic on Friday, June 24.
"This group represents a tremendous amount of talent,” said Carol Callan, USA Women’s National Team Director and chair of the USA Basketball Women’s Developmental National Team Committee, which is responsible for issuing the invitations and selecting the squad. “Many of these players have USA Basketball experience from last year – from trials or from the U16 national team, and we hope that helps raise the level of competition for everyone.”
It has been a run of dominance for the USA since FIBA began conducting the U17 World Championship for Women in 2010. Owning a perfect 23-0 overall record and having won three gold medals in as many U17 championships, the 2014 USA U17s extended the unbeaten streak by defeating opponents by an average margin of 37 points per game.
In the three U17 World Championships, only two of the USA’s games have been decided by less than 20 points. But that’s not to say the U.S. shouldn’t expect some serious challenges. A look back to the 2014 U17 World Championship gold medal game saw the USA battle to a thrilling 77-75 win over Spain in a battle of undefeated teams.
This year's trials roster is a talent-loaded group, especially with the return of all 12 members of the 2015 USA U16 National Team that won bronze at the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and qualified the USA for the U17 Worlds.
The U16 roster featured Jayda Adams (Mater Dei H.S./Irvine, Calif.); Desireé Caldwell (Frenship H.S./Lubbock, Texas); Aquira DeCosta (St. Mary's H.S./Stockton, Calif.); Andra Espinoza-Hunter (Blair Academy, N.J./Ossining, N.Y.); Destiny Littleton (The Bishop's School/San Diego, Calif.); Lauryn Miller (Kirkwood/Kirkwood, Mo.); Alexis Morris (Legacy Christian Academy/Beaumont, Texas); Valencia Myers (Solon H.S./Solon, Ohio); Sedona Prince (Liberty Hill H.S./Liberty Hill, Texas); Honesty Scott-Grayson (Blair Academy/Brick, N.J.); Bexley Wallace (Pickerington Central H.S./Pickerington, Ohio); and Jade Williams (Prestonwood Christian Academy/The Colony, Texas).
Morris, Littleton and Espinoza-Hunter led the USA U16 squad in scoring last summer as the only members to average double figures throughout the team’s five games. Myers, a 6-foot-3 center, led the team in rebounding, averaging 7.5 per game while making two starting appearances.
Many players have been through this experience before, hoping the end result is the prize of representing the red, white and blue. Thirty-Five players have taken part in at least one previous USA Basketball national team trials.
Forty-eight players are from the high school class of 2017; 65 are from the class of 2018; 27 will graduate high school in 2019; and three are from the class of 2020.
Nine players attending the trials already have verbally committed to a college, including Mikayla Boykin (Clinton H.S./Clinton, N.C.) to Duke University; Caldwell to Texas Tech University; Espinoza-Hunter and Alexis Gordon (L.D. Bell H.S./Fort Worth, Texas) to the University of Connecticut; Nyah Green (Allen H.S./Allen, Texas) and Loretta Kakala (Manteca H.S./Manteca, Calif) to the University of Louisville; Jordyn Oliver (Prosper H.S./Prosper, Texas) to Baylor University; Nicolette Oppenheimer (Montini Catholic H.S./Glenview, Ill.) to Syracuse University and Alaysia Styles (San Marcos, Calif.) to the University of California.
In an environment that will challenge every player mentally and physically, some athletes will have the luxury of a sibling rivalry to push one another. Three sets of twins are listed on the roster including Eve and Maryam Crawford (Notre Dame H.S./East Brunswick, N.J.); Lacie and Lexie Hull (Central Valley H.S./Liberty Lake, Wash.); and Caira and Shaira Young (Bisop Gorman H.S./Las Vegas, Nev.).
The family ties go further, with some of the participants linked to some notable talents.
Jenna Brown (The Lovett School/Marietta, Ga.) is the great niece of Larry Brown, who played at the University of North Carolina, in the ABA and on the 1964 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team. After making multiple coaching stops in the NBA, as well as in college and as the 2004 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team head coach, Brown is currently the head coach at Southern Methodist University.
Six-foot-4 center Kasiyahna Kushkituah’s (St. Francis H.S./Austell, Ga.) God-uncle, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team that won a gold medal in Sydney. The third overall selection in the 1996 NBA Draft, Abdur-Rahim also won a gold medal on the 1994 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team.
Boasting of a nation-wide interest, 33 states are represented in the trials. Texas leads with the most athletes at trials with 25 on the roster; followed by 18 from California; eight from Georgia, New York and North Carolina; six players each from Missouri, New Jersey and Ohio; five players from Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Michigan; four from Maryland; three from Colorado, Indiana, Iowa and Washington; two from Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada and Virginia; and 10 states feature one player: Alaska, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and South Dakota.
At the end of a long and grueling process, finalists for the 2016 USA Women’s U17 World Championship Team will be announced on May 30, and they will remain in Colorado Springs to continue training through June 2. The work won’t stop there for the official 12-player roster announced on June 3. Practice will resume June 7 with 17 days of preparation before the opening U17 matchup with the Czech Republic on June 24.
More than 140 athletes will enter the USA Basketball U17 Trials with one common goal: to help expand on the tradition of excellence previous USA Women’s U17 World Championship Teams have established. Only 12 will be granted that opportunity, and it will have to be earned through an immense amount of work and dedication over the next couple of weeks.