Ashley Joens Fitting Right in with the USA U19 Team
The 2019 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Cup Team gathered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on July 5 to begin training in its quest to reclaim the FIBA U19 World Cup gold medal.
Eleven of the 12 athletes who had been selected on May 19 after four days of trials sessions, as well as one later replacement, trained July 5-9 before learning that Jordan Nixon, who was injured during training, would not be able to continue with the team.
USA Basketball reached out to rising Iowa State University sophomore Ashley Joens, who helped the USA claim gold at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and who was listed as a U19 alternate following trials, to find out if she would be able to join the squad.
This was familiar territory for Joens, who was added to the 2018 USA U18 roster just prior to training camp.
“It’s really exciting, anytime you get a call like that,” said Joens. “I was really shocked, because the team had already started training, so I didn’t think there was any chance of me getting to come. So, I was super shocked and super excited to be able to get this opportunity.
“The feeling was the same,” she added about any difference from being added to the U18 team a year ago. “I was super excited, because it’s such an honor to be able to represent our country.”
The 5-foot-11 guard conferred briefly with Cyclones head coach Bill Fennelly before making a final decision.
“I thought about it a little bit,” she said following the team’s final practice in Tokyo, where the squad trained alongside the Japan U19 National Team before heading to Bangkok for the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup. “But I talked with coach Fennelly, and it’s such a great honor to be able to come and represent my country, so there wasn’t much hesitation.”
As a member of the 2018 USA U18 National Team, Joens averaged 10.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game to help the USA to a 6-0 record and a gold medal in Mexico City, which qualified the USA for this year’s U19 World Cup.
This year’s U19 coaching staff, comprised of USA U19 head coach Jeff Walz of Louisville and assistant coaches Cori Close from UCLA and Natasha Adair from Delaware, carried over from the 2018 U18 team, helping to make the transition easier.
“It’s all pretty much the same,” she said of the plays the coaches are running. “Right now, I’m trying to remember the plays and getting used to playing with these girls. It’s been good to be able to play here in Tokyo and get to know my teammates a little better before we go to Thailand.”
Joens, who was a 2019 Big 12 Conference All-Freshman Team selection after averaging ISU third-bests of 11.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in aiding Iowa State to a 26-9 record and the 2019 NCAA Tournament second round, thinks her experience in college helped with her late selection.
“Being able to develop as a player and being able to play against higher competition I think helped,” she said. “I was able to grow in my speed and strength and just grow overall as a player.”
For now, Joens isn’t thinking about how she felt after not making the team immediately after trials. She is looking forward and working on whatever it takes to win gold.
“I just want to be able to contribute to this team, do whatever they ask of me and play my hardest every time.”
The 13th FIBA U19 World Cup will be held July 20-28 in Bangkok, Thailand, where the USA will attempt to capture an eighth gold medal. Preliminary round games will be streamed live online at YouTube.com/FIBA and Facebook.com/USABasketball while medal round action will stream at ESPN+.