Aquira DeCosta Hopes for Big Role with USA Basketball This Summer and With Baylor in the Fall
After seeing limited action in Waco as a freshman, DeCosta Striving to make USA U19 World Cup Team.
The first year away from college can be the most challenging. Often, it is the first time a teenager is living away from home, while also balancing a college education with fitting into a new social environment.
Add on top of that the life of an athlete in a high-profile program and the stakes are raised.
For Aquira DeCosta, her first months on the Baylor University campus included the extra challenge of recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the right knee that kept her from playing on a summer tour to Italy with the women’s basketball team. Then came a Lisfranc sprain in her right foot that set her back even further.
“My freshman year overall was rough,” DeCosta said. “I had to go through some things, get used to certain things, a new program, a new environment. So, it took me a while to get used to that. I had to learn my role on the team. Freshman year is really hard.”
DeCosta is already working on making her second year a better one. With classes at Baylor ending this week, DeCosta is one of 30 players attending the USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Cup Team trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Athletes are competing for 12 spots on the U19 World Cup roster, with training camp July 5-19 and the tournament July 20-28 in Bangkok.
The 6-foot-3 forward out of St. Mary’s High School in Stockton, California, already has international experience with USA Basketball. She won bronze medals in 2015 at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship and in 2016 at the U17 World Championship. DeCosta then won a gold medal in the new 3x3 format at the 2017 3x3 U18 World Cup, where she was named MVP.
Now fully healthy, DeCosta feels confident entering the trials. Having played in 23 of 38 games for a Baylor team that beat Notre Dame 83-82 for the national championship, DeCosta made good use of her time observing what it takes to succeed in coach Kim Mulkey’s system, where freshmen generally don’t see significant action. She averaged 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds in 7.1 minutes per game. DeCosta did not play in either game at the Final Four.
She said the injuries actually helped her in a way.
“I’m more of a visual learner anyways, so to be able to see what other people are doing and see what to do and what not to do helped me a lot,” DeCosta said.
Having been a five-star recruit in high school and dominating in part due to her size advantage, DeCosta said she is rounding out her skill set. She has been more focused on being a defensive presence as well as adding an outside shot after mainly being a post player.
“I’m just starting to put more pride in defense,” DeCosta said. “College is a new level so there are people who quicker, faster, stronger than you, so I’ve been in the weight room with my teammates and just working on defending people.”
Some of her offensive improvement can be attributed to her time playing 3x3 for USA Basketball. The discipline is new for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The games are 10 minutes with a 12-second shot clock, but the game ends if a team reaches 21 points before time expires.
“It was a very fun experience, I don’t really see why people don’t like 3x3,” said DeCosta, who admitted to being confused by the rules at first. “It’s quick, fun. It actually helped me with my 1-on-1 game on the court with my teammates, knowing which angle to go off of.”
She is hoping to continue to build on these skills this summer in the U19 World Cup. She could have some familiar faces with her if she earns a trip to Thailand. Baylor teammates Queen Egbo, NaLyssa Smith and Honesty Scott-Grayson are also at the trials.
“We’re all sisters, so it’s great to have them here with me,” DeCosta said. “We’re all just trying to make the team and uplifting each other.”
And then it will be back to Waco, Texas, for her sophomore season, which she hopes includes a larger role.
“All of us are excited for next year,” DeCosta said. “We didn’t get to play much, we’ve been observing a lot, so I think we are more comfortable for our sophomore year. I’m excited to see what I can do and what they can do.”