Fundamentals Kick Off Women's U16 Trials
The line for medical screenings spread across the courts of Sport Center 2 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday as USA Basketball welcomed 133 16-and-under women’s basketball athletes for the first day of the 2017 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team Trials.
Because of the number of athletes in attendance, USA Basketball divided participants into two groups. After opening remarks by Carol Callan, USA Basketball Women’s National Team director and chair of the USA Basketball Women’s Developmental National Team Committee, one-half of the athletes sat in on a “Becoming a Champion” leadership seminar, which was open to parents as well, while the other half cycled through shooting and footwork fundamental exercises with Carla Berube, head coach of the 2017 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team. After 90 minutes, the groups switched places.
“It’s very exciting to be back here, and now as the head coach of this U16 team that will be picked in the next week, it’s very, very exciting, and an honor,” said Berube, the head coach at Tufts University, who served as a court coach for the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team Trials.
“It’s awesome to be able to get out here to teach and coach and have an impact on some of these players. I know that the court coaches that are here with us, and the other members of the coaching staff – we’re really looking forward to this experience and adventure.”
Thursday evening’s fundamental skills exercises serve as a focal point for Berube and her coaching staff, consisting of Steve Gomez of Lubbock Christian University in Texas and Vanessa Nygaard of Windward School in Los Angeles, California.
“At any age, you’re still learning, but especially at this young age, U16, the ceiling is so high,” said Berube, who plans to begin Friday’s morning session with fundamental skills, mixed in with 3x3 playing strategies.
“These athletes are just sponges and want to learn,” Berube added. “To be able to teach them some fundamentals that we believe are vital to the success of women’s basketball player is an awesome opportunity. These sessions mean a lot. I’m looking forward to watching them and getting better.”
A total of 20 athletes at trials have previous USA Basketball experience, including Samantha Brunelle, (William Monroe H.S./Ruckersville, Va.), who helped the USA to a bronze medal as a member of the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team.
Another 12 athletes at this year’s U16 trials are carryovers from the 2016 U17 trials, providing the returners with a significant edge in experience and a sense of familiarity at the USOTC.
Myra Gordon (LD Bell H.S./Fort Worth, Texas) is one of those athletes back, and with last year’s run in her back pocket, she hopes to use what she acquired from the 2016 trials sessions to climb the ladder onto the 2017 USA U16 National Team roster.
“It’s extremely valuable having been here last year. You have to go in there and give 110 percent effort the whole time,” said Gordon, who was an applicant participant in 2016, but was invited into this year’s trials.
“They are big on communication, and the little things, so it’s good to know those things coming in this time,” Gordon added. “I’m definitely not taking this for granted. It’s pretty amazing to me to be back and to be invited.”
Also from the 2016 U17 trials, but accepting an invitation for the first time, is Taylor Jones (Dallas Christian School/Forney, Texas).
“Just coming into this and having that time to train based on knowing what they are looking for is big in preparing for this,” said the 6-foot-3 Jones. “To get the invite, it just makes this a lot more real, I think. The opportunity is greater and makes me feel like I have a better chance of making this team. It drove me to work harder and push in training for this.”
Meanwhile, Charisma Osborne (Windward School/Inglewood, Calif.) accepted an invite for her first go at trials.
“I think it’s going to be really cool to be competing with so many great players. A lot of times when you go to camps, there are only a select few players, but this opens it up and I’m excited to compete against a lot of great girls,” said Osborne, a 5-foot-8 guard. “I’m ready to learn, have fun and get to know some new people.”
From the open applicant pool, Azzi Fudd (Potomac School/Falls Church, Va.) grabbed a glance of the others while waiting in line for her medical screening.
“I’m a little nervous, but it’s a lot of excitement. I feel ready,” said Fudd, a 5-foot-11 guard.
“I know a few of the other girls, so that helps my nerves,” Fudd explained. “I think seeing them helps, too. Not knowing who the others are when you first come in, it’s a little scary, but once you see them and meet them, you begin to feel more prepared.”
Diamond Miller (Franklin H.S./Somerset, N.J.), a 6-foot-2 guard, traveled more than halfway across the country to compete at trials.
“I want to show my full potential and play to the best of my abilities,” Miller said. “It’s kind of nervewracking to look around and see the other backpacks and where girls are from, but it’s also really exciting.”
Nerves also are a factor for Elizabeth Ratcliff (Teurlings Catholic H.S./Lafayette, La.), a 5-foot-7 guard who is at her first trials with USA Basketball.
“It’s all a little bit intimidating,” Ratcliff admitted. “I’m a bit shorter than some of the other players here – not that that means anything – but yes, it is a bit intimidating. You’re in a new environment.”
A U16 national team roster spot or not as the outcome, Ratcliff sees the positives of venturing out of her comfort zone this weekend.
“I’m just hoping to get better, because I’ve never really played at this level,” Ratcliff added. “I’m looking forward to playing with girls that are just some of the best at our age, in this game.”
Trials continue through Sunday, May 29 at the USOTC, when 15-18finalists for the 2017 USA Women’s U16 National Team are expected to be announced. Training camp is set to begin on Monday, May 30, in Colorado Springs ahead of the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship from June 7-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.