Top 2016 & 2017 Prospects Headline USA Women’s U18 National Team Trials
Thirty athletes will put their considerable hoop skills on display at the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team Trials that get underway on Saturday. The hopefuls include 20 class of 2016 prospects are headed toward some of the most recognizable programs in college basketball, while the other 10 from the 2017 class likely will follow suit in a year.
When all is said and done, 12 team members will be selected to represent USA Basketball in the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, that will take place July 13-17 in Valdivia, Chile. The USA will compete in Group A with Brazil, Guatemala and Venezuela. The first game will tip-off against Guatemala on Wednesday, July 13.
The gold-medal hopes of the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team will be led by a trio of former USA Basketball players and current successful collegiate head coaches in Suzie McConnell-Serio (Pittsburgh) as the USA head coach and Kamie Ethridge (Northern Colorado) and Charlotte Smith (Elon) as assistant coaches.
With three years under her belt rejuvenating the program at Pitt, McConnell-Serio understands the talent she'll be witnessing over the course of trials.
"I have all the confidence in the world in this committee that we will have a terrific team representing us in Chile, and I'm looking forward to coaching them," McConnell-Serio said. "I'm excited about the opportunity to coach this talent on top of the sense of pride you get when representing your country."
The USA is coming off a 5-0 record in 2014 on the way to a 30-point gold medal victory over Canada. The USA U18s have now won 34-straight games, dating all the way back to a loss against Brazil in the gold medal game in 1996.
The 2014 USA team featured high school All-Americans that have begun to cement great college careers, including Marina Mabrey (Notre Dame), Beatrice Mompremier (Baylor), Jessica Shepard (Nebraska) and A’ja Wilson (South Carolina).
This year’s U18 trials will feature 14 players with prior USA Basketball experience, including 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship gold medalists Lauren Cox (Flower Mound H.S./Flower Mound, Texas) and Crystal Dangerfield (Blackman H.S./Murfreesboro, Tenn.). Cox and Dangerfield also won gold as members of the 2013 USA Women’s U16 National Team, and Cox earned a third gold as a member of the 2014 USA Women’s U17 World Championship Team.
Eight athletes were McDonald’s All-Americans this year, including Jeannie Boehm (New Trier H.S./Winnetka, Ill.), Cox, Dangerfield, Nadia Fingall (Choctawhatchee H.S./Navaree, Fla.), Cierra Johnson (Blount, H.S./Mobile, Ala.), Tori McCoy (H.S. of St. Thomas More/Champaign, Ill.), Amber Ramirez (Karen Wagner H.S./San Antonio, Texas) and LaDazhia Williams (Lakewood Ranch H.S./Bradenton, Fla.).
Nine athletes were Jordan Brand Classic All-Americans, including Cox, Dangerfield, Fingall, Valerie Higgins (Chaminade College Prep/Granada Hills, Calif.), Johnson, Kiara Lewis (Whitney Young H.S./Chicago, Ill.), McCoy, Ramirez and Wilson.
Two trials participants are local residents from Colorado Springs, who add a local flavor to this year’s trials. Kylee Shook hails from Mesa Ridge High School and Oliana Squires attended Sand Creek High School.
Nineteen players have signed National Letters of Intent to Division I programs, including Nicole Ekhomu (Joliet Catholic Academy/Bolingbrook, Ill.) and Jasmine Walker (Jefferson Davis H.S./Montgomery, Ala.), who will attend Florida State; Lewis and McCoy will attend Ohio State; Cox will attend Baylor; Dangerfield will attend Connecticut; Fingall will attend Stanford; Tyasha Harris (Heritage Christian/Noblesville, Ind.) will attend South Carolina; Ruthy Hebard (West valley H.S./Fairbanks, Alaska) will attend Oregon; Higgins will attend Southern California; Nia Hollie (Hopkins, H.S./Brooklyn Park, Minn.) will attend Michigan State; Johnson will attend Alabama; Reili Richardson (Brea Olinda H.S./Brea, Calif.) will attend Arizona State; Shook will attend Louisville; Squires will attend Montana State; Jenna Staiti (West Forsyth H.S./Cumming, Ga.) will attend Maryland; Dominique Toussaint (Christ the King H.S./Staten Island, N.Y.) will attend Virginia; and Wilson will attend Arkansas. Boehm still remains verbally committed to Harvard.
Nine participants from the 2017 class are ranked in the top 60 in the country on the ESPN.com HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings. Megan Walker (Monacan H.S./Chesterfield, Va.) checks in as the No.1 overall prospect in the country, followed by Evina Westbrook (South Salem H.S./Salem, Ore.) at No. 2; Chasity Patterson (North Shore H.S./Houston, Texas) at No. 4; Sidney Cooks (Saint Joseph Catholic Academy/Kenosha, Wis.), at No. 6, Dana Evans (West Side Leadership Academy/Gary, Ind.) at No. 7; Chennedy Carter (Timberview H.S./Mansfield, Texas) at No. 8; Anastasia Hayes (Riverdale H.S./Murfreesboro, Tenn.) at No. 17; Vivian Gray (Argyle H.S./Argyle, Texas) at No. 26; and Ladazhia Williams (Lakewood Ranch H.S./Bradenton, Fla.) at No. 43. Micaela Wilson (Rayville H.S./Rayville, La.) is listed as the 12th best wing prospect in the ’17 class.
With athletes coming from all across the country, Texas leads the way in representation with five players at the trials; Illinois features four players; Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana and Tennessee each are represented by two players; and Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin all feature one player on the trials roster.
The names that have come before this group, such as three-time Olympic gold medalists Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi, have carved a path that is built on team work and team preparation, which ultimately leads to success. The worst finish for a USA Women’s U18 National Team is a silver medal, and that only has occurred twice – in 1992 and 1996.
A 48-2 overall mark is where this year’s team begins when the ball is tipped against Guatemala. Canada has won three of the past five silver medals. Brazil has captured the two remaining silvers, and is the only nation to defeat the U.S. at the U18s. If history is any indicator, the USA is five wins away from another gold medal, but it certainly won’t be a path of leisure.