No Time To Adjust, It’s All-Out For Newcomers At USA U19 Trials
When Gabby Cooper (Lansing, Ill.), Kathleen Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) and Kayla Overbeck (Newbury Park, Calif.) hopped out of the van and stepped inside the United States Olympic Training Center on Thursday, they understood the task at hand.
But none of the three athletes at this year’s USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Cup Team trials really knew what they were in for.
The trio help make up the list of 10 athletes at trials with zero previous USA Basketball experiences to date, but that hasn’t stopped them from enjoying their time in Colorado Springs, Colorado, competing and learning at their highest levels.
Thursday evening’s session included 3x3 demonstrations followed by a 3x3 tournament, while Friday and Saturday included position work along with team offense and team defense. Scrimmages concluded Thursday and Friday’s sessions.
“It’s been different. You don’t always see the top of the top, the best of the best, but this is it,” said the 5-foot-10 Cooper, who was an Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshman Team selection after she started all 32 games in 2016-17, averaging 9.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for the Syracuse University.
“It’s awesome to be playing against these girls, because it is great competition every series. And, it’s fun to see all these other players play, and to see what other guards from other places play like. I’m from the Midwest, so I’ve played a lot of the girls from the Midwest and in the ACC on the East Coast. I haven’t played against all these girls from the West Coast or the South, really, so it’s good to see how they play and move.”
Cooper has also enjoyed the opportunity to play for a new crop of coaches, even though she faced off against the 2017 Women’s U19 World Cup Team and University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio twice in ACC play this past season when she averaged 10 points in the Orange’s two contests against the Panthers.
Doyle, a 5-foot-9 guard who averaged 9.2 ppg. and 4.4 apg. at the University of Iowa, is soaking up the competitive atmosphere and opportunity to meet some of the country’s best.
“It’s great to be out here and to be pushed. Every player here is a great player,” said Doyle, who earned Big 10 Conference All-Freshman Team honors. “You can’t take any plays off or else you’ll get burnt. It’s been cool to see what these other girls can do and see the areas where I can improve my game.”
“I’ve played against a bunch of the girls, but I’ve never really met them before, so it’s really nice to put personalities together with how they are off the court and then on the court. Everybody has been really welcoming and I’m appreciative of that,” added Doyle.
For Overbeck, a 6-foot-1 forward from Vanderbilt University, Colorado Springs isn’t entirely new. She played two games at the Air Force Academy this past December as part of the Commodores non-conference schedule. But, this time around in a USA jersey, she has appreciated being out of element during the trials sessions.
“They change up the teams all the time, so you’re always a little uncomfortable because you’re playing with different people,” said Overbeck, who was a Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team selection after averaging 9.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for Vanderbilt University in 2016-17.
“Even though it’s challenging, that’s one of the best parts. It proves to me what I can accomplish when I’m not comfortable. It makes you better without even realizing it.”
She, too, has enjoyed the chance to play for McConnell-Serio, and assistant coaches Kamie Ethridge (Northern Colorado) and Charlotte Smith (Elon), in addition to court coaches Natasha Adair (Delaware) and Jennie Baranczyk (Drake).
“When you’re coached by the same person, you can get stuck hearing the same things. Being away from my college coaches and being around these other coaches that understand the game in different aspects, that helps a lot as a person and a player. I really like playing for these people,” she said.
Doyle went on, saying, “They are super fun to play for. They are just intense, passionate, fiery ladies, and they bring the best out of you, so that’s what you want as a player.”
With two more sessions to be played, the three newcomers agreed trials have lived up to expectations in every way.
“You hear from friends about going and playing at these things, but it’s different once you actually get here,” she Overbeck. “All the hype that surrounds this, it’s real. It’s not something that’s just made up.”
“It is everything I expected, honestly,” added Cooper. “The competition is top notch, and I wanted and expected that. Now, the altitude (Colorado Springs is at an elevation of 6,035 feet), I knew it was here, but it got me.”