These USA U17 Women Have Nerves of Steel
They arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on May 24, 2018, with the hopes of earning a trip to Belarus for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup in July. The 158 young women age 17 and younger were guaranteed three skills sessions and two trials sessions in front of the USA Basketball Women’s Developmental National Team Committee before the roster would begin to be reduced.
The first reduction took place the afternoon of May 26, and 102 athletes returned for the day’s second session.
That evening 70 hopefuls remained.
The list was pared to 45 the morning of May 27 and then to 18 about 24 hours later.
For Charisma Osborne (Inglewood, Calif.), a 5-foot-9 guard and one of 124 applicant athletes in the open trials, waiting each time for names to be posted was made a little easier by the presence of her Winward High School head coach Vanessa Nygaard, who is a 2018 USA U17 assistant coach.
“I was very nervous, because I was playing against some of the best competition,” said Osborne, who will suit up for USA Basketball for the first time in 2018. “So, I was just really nervous. I was excited at the same time. But it really helped to have coach here. She’s very motivating. She knows what I can do. She really believes in me.”
For athletes who remained in contention for a spot on the USA U17 World Cup Team, the nerves increased with every cut.
Haley Jones (Archbishop Mitty H.S./Santa Cruz, Calif.), a 6-foot-1 guard who was participating in her fourth trials in as many years – never making the final team until this year – was especially uneasy.
“I think the competition increased with every round of cuts, so I just had to keep increasing my intensity and never lose any type of motivation at any round of cuts,” Jones said. “Every year they (the selection committee) tell you what you can work on. So, coming in I focused on that as well as working on my all-around game.”
Even 6-foot-2 forward Samantha Brunelle (William Monroe H.S./Ruckersville, Va.), a two-time medalist with USA Basketball who took home bronze from the 2016 U17 World Cup and won gold at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, felt anxious.
“It’s always nerve-wracking, because you’re never guaranteed anything,” Brunelle stated after finding out May 30 that she had made the U17 squad. “Even me, being the veteran of the team, I’m not guaranteed anything. So, the past few days were kind of nerve-wracking. But, it’s nice to be able to be named to the team now.”
The 18 finalists had six practices together May 28-30 before the last cut was made and the official roster was announced. That’s when the angst really began to build, knowing one third of the 18 finalists would not have the chance to compete for USA Basketball this summer.
“After the first cut, I was so nervous,” stated Osborne. “Then it got harder and harder (when it was down to 18). I was just excited to see my number on the list for the final time.”
On the evening of May 30, the final team was posted on the gym door. There were tears of joy and tears of disappointment, and Jones has experienced both of those emotions.
“I think I come back every year with more experience, with a little chip on the shoulder,” Jones commented after finding out she finally made it. “There’s more motivation every year to come and work hard in the off-season every time. It’s just a great honor to be able to make it this year, especially going to the U17 World Cup.
“I saw it, and then I called my mom immediately,” she added. “There were so many emotions, it was just pure joy.”
“I think all 18 worked extremely hard the last couple of days here” said USA and Tufts University head coach Carla Berube. “But I think the 12 players the committee selected are just a great combination of players that have a lot of talent and great work ethic, and we’ll get them together to gel on the court and off it, too.”
“I think we’re a very special team,” echoed Brunelle, who also will represent USA Basketball at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in October, where she will be joined by U17 teammates Aliyah Boston, Paige Bueckers and Hailey Van Lith. “A lot of us have played together last year and we have amazing chemistry. It’s going to be exciting to see what happens in the tournament.”
The USA U17 World Cup Team returns to Colorado Springs July 4 to begin training for the July 21-29 FIBA U17 World Cup. Follow the team on its journey in its attempt to claim gold in Belarus via usab.com, and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @USABasketball.