2017 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team Reacts To Roster Announcement
For nearly an hour on Sunday, Suzie McConnell-Serio, head coach of the 2017 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Cup Team and the University of Pittsburgh, sat, simply waiting, on the court of Sports Center 2 at the United States Olympic Training Center.
Accompanied by assistant coaches Kamie Ethridge (Northern Colorado) and Charlotte Smith (Elon), the trio took time to make some phone calls and check their text messages, until around 11:30 a.m. local time. Then, they rose to their feet as the USA Basketball Junior National Team Committee emerged from the meeting room.
The group, led by George Washington University head coach Jennifer Rizzotti, who is chair of the selection committee, then delivered the roster news to the 32 athletes at trials.
“I’m really excited about the personnel that we have on this team as the journey begins to prepare to try and win a gold medal,” said McConnell-Serio.
The 12-member 2017 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team includes 10 players with previous USA Basketball experience and five carryovers from the gold medal-winning 2016 USA U18 National Team.
Nine athletes recently completed their freshman season in college, with six earning conference honors, including Bella Alarie (Princeton/Bethesda, Md.), who was named 2017 Ivy League Freshman of the Year.
Alarie, who’s father, Mark, played for three USA Basketball teams from 1983-84, is rostered for her first USA Basketball team after an impressive showing in her introduction to trials.
“It’s surreal. I was so nervous sitting in that room waiting for the names to be called, but when I heard my name, my heart kind of dropped,” said Alarie. “I’m so excited. This is an incredible opportunity, and I’m so excited to represent this country. I think I played my heart out this weekend, and I’m glad that showed to the staff and committee.”
Joining Alarie as a newcomer with USA Basketball is Kayla Overbeck (Vanderbilt/Newbury Park, Calif.).
“I was nervous sitting in the chair, but at the end of the day, I felt like I had played the best basketball I could to make the team,” said Overbeck, who was a Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team selection.
“So, whether I made the team or not, I was happy with how I had performed. At the end of the day it wasn’t in my hands, but while sitting there I was really nervous. But, it feels good to prove to myself that I am the player that I think I am.”
Reili Richardson (Arizona State/Brea, Calif.) and Alecia Sutton (Texas/St. Louis, Mo.) have been enlisted for their first USA Basketball team after their second run at trials. Richardson competed at the 2016 USA U18 National Team trials, while Sutton was present for the 2014 USA U17 World Cup Team trials.
“It was a relief. I’m really excited,” said Richardson, who earned Pacific-12 Conference All-Freshman honorable mention honors. “I’ve been working hard, and from last year I learned a lot and just improved my game.
“I felt like I had played well – better than last year, so I had a good feeling and a positive mindset coming in,” she added.
Sutton had fewer words in the wake of making the U19 team.
“I can’t even describe the feeling. I’m just shocked. All that hard work paid off. I came to U16 trials and didn’t make it. Just to know that I made this team means a lot to me.”
Jeannie Boehm (Harvard/Winnetka, Ill.), Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.) and Ruthy Hebard (Oregon/Fairbanks, Alaska) are back from the 2016 U18 National Team, which included the same coaching staff. As one of the team’s catalysts, Harris knows what it will take to get back to gold at the U19 level.
“Everyone buying into the system, just listening to the coach and playing as one, and playing for the name on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back of jersey,” said Harris.
“Just teamwork and sharing the ball and everyone going for the ultimate goal, which is the gold medal.”
Of the 12 athletes, Crystal Dangerfield (Connecticut/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) brings the most international experience with a pair of gold medals from the 2015 USA U19 World Championship Team and 2013 USA U16 National Team.
“I just hope to lead them from experience. In 2015, it was hard. I remember our championship game (a 78-70 win over host Russia) – that was our toughest game,” said Dangerfield, who made the 2016 USA U18 National Team, but was forced to withdraw due to injury.
“And, the teams out there, like they said in the room, it’s tougher out there than it has been in previous tournaments. The World Cup games, you have to stay strong out there. Any game can go any way.”
Joyner Holmes (Texas/Cedar Hill, Texas), who was the 2017 Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year, will put on the red, white and blue for the first time since winning gold with the 2014 U17 World Cup Team.
Three prep standouts – Chennedy Carter (Timberview H.S./Arlington, Texas), Megan Walker (Monacan H.S./Chesterfield, Va.) and Christyn Williams (Central Arkansas Christian School/Little Rock, Ark.) – join the nine collegiate players, all of whom have worn the USA Basketball jersey at least once over the past two summer periods.
“Honestly, I was a little bit nervous,” said Carter, a WBCA All-American and returner (with Walker) from the 2016 U18 National Team.
“I was kind of, in my head, praying for my name to be called. It got called and a tear came out. I was really surprised, but this is truly a blessing and an honor to be able to play for the USA U19 team.”
For Williams, a roster spot on the U19 team is a shot at redemption after winning bronze with the 2016 USA U17 World Championship Team.
“It means the world, especially since my birthday was yesterday (Saturday). This is a great birthday present. Considering I’m the youngest player here, it’s a huge honor to be selected to this team.”
“I have a second chance. That is great, because bronze hurt my heart. So, for us to go out and work to get gold, that will be great.”
The USA U19 squad will look to make it seven gold medals in a row at the July 22-30 FIBA U19 World Cup that is being held in Udine and Cividale del Friuli, Italy.