Competition Heats Up At USA Women's U23 Training Camp
The 2017 USA Basketball Women’s U23 National Team hopefuls wrapped up a busy second day of training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Aug. 1 – starting the day with two skill development sessions and culminating the evening with the first games of the intrasquad, four-team tournament.
- Tyra Buss (Indiana/Mt. Carmel, Ill.) on her first experience playing in a USA Basketball uniform: “These first couple sessions have been great. We kind of got off to a slow start with a lot of teaching, but now we are running up and down the floor. Everyone is so helpful and nice. Everyone is a great teammate to one another. If you haven’t played with them, or haven’t even talked to them before, it’s just cool to interact with all the different athletes and play with one another.”
- Asia Durr (Louisville/Douglasville, Ga.), a two-time gold medalist, on returning to Colorado Springs to compete for a U23 roster spot: “It goes back to learning from the best. Coach Auriemma and coach Staley, they have shared with us such great information that we can take with us on to college and our careers. I think it is so important to pay attention to what they are saying. They’ve both won at the highest level, and that’s where we are trying to get.”
- Sabrina Ionescu (Oregon/Walnut Creek, Calif.) on the competitive, tournament format of the U23 training camp: “I like being able to go out here and play a little more than just doing some skill stuff, just because everyone at this level is pretty good at the skill stuff. I definitely like coming out and competing, and learning from all the coaches and other players. You learn something every day while you’re here. “
- Team 1 versus Team 2: Team 1, coached by Jamelle Elliott (Cincinnati), and Team 2 with Michelle Clark-Heard (Western Kentucky) on the sideline, kicked things off with a frantic pace through the opening quarter and change, highlighted by lengthy runs from both squads. Tied at 6-6 only two minutes in, Team 2 was the first to break it open, jumping out to a 17-10 lead midway through the first quarter. Elliott’s squad returned with its own 10-0 run, only to be answered by a 12-0 streak from Team 2. Clark-Heard’s team led at the break 50-42, and kept the margin at the end of the third quarter, 70-63. Team 2 held Elliott’s blue team to 12 points in the fourth quarter to pull away with an opening 93-75 victory.
Jessica Shepard (Notre Dame/Fremond, Neb.) scored a game-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, for Team 2, while Azura Stevens (Connecticut/Raleigh, NC) added 17 points and nine rebounds. Monique Billings (UCLA/Corona, Calif.) posted a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds for Team 1 in the loss.
“It was definitely fun,” said Ariel Atkins (Texas/Duncanville, Texas) after her 15-point outing in the win. “Coach told us we looked tired going into the fourth quarter, and if we wanted to win, we were going to have to push through. We got together and found a way. We were telling each other to run and helping each other defensively. I like how they taught this to us, and then let us implement things into a real-life situation – into these games.
- Team 3 versus Team 4: Team 4, headed by Courtney Banghart (Princeton), jumped out to the early advantage over Team 3, coached by Cori Close (UCLA), in the nightcap, leading 22-16 after 10 minutes. The margin swelled to 13 points at the half, 42-29, behind 10 points from Napheesa Collier (Connecticut/O’Fallon, Mo.). Team 4 stretched the game to 51-31 just three minutes into the second half, before a short rally by Close’s group narrowed the margin to 12 points by the end of the third quarter, 59-47. But, Banghart’s lineup never let its edge slip below eight points in the final 10 minutes and held on for a 80-70 victory.
Team 4 was led by Collier’s 17 points, while Brittany McPhee (Stanford/Normandy Park, Wash.) recorded a double-double line of 14 points and 11 rebounds in the win. A’Ja Wilson (South Carolina/Hopkins, SC) scored 17 points to go with six rebounds for Team 3.
"You definitely have to get used to everyone’s different tendencies,” said McPhee, who also notched three steals. “Everybody out here is so talented. You have to figure out how to talk on defense to avoid miscommunication. We’re all playing a new defense and a new offense, so you just play hard and figure it out.”
- Wednesday’s sessions begin with tournament games, as Team 1 plays Team 3 at 9:30 a.m. (all times listed are MDT) and Team 2 takes on Team 4 at 11 a.m. The day concludes with Team 1 playing Team 4 at 5 p.m. and Team 2 versus Team 3 at 6:30 p.m.