After Being on Opposing Sides in National Championship Game, Queen Egbo and Jordan Nixon Team Up With USA Basketball
Egbo’s Baylor team topped Nixon’s Notre Dame in Final Four; now the players are aiming for their first USA Basketball gold medal.
A year ago, Queen Egbo and Jordan Nixon had just completed their senior years of high school and had earned spots on the USA Basketball U18 Women’s National Team when opportunities arose elsewhere that they couldn’t turn down.
So, instead of heading to Mexico for the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, Egbo and Nixon joined their new college teammates for international exhibition trips.
Egbo, a 6-foot-3 center from Travis High School in Richmond, Texas, went with Baylor University to Italy, while Nixon, a 5-foot-9 guard out of The Mary Louis Academy in New York City, connected with the University of Notre Dame for a trip to Croatia.
“I just felt like being with my team and bonding with them was, at the time, was more of a priority, because I really wanted to get to know them,” Egbo said. “That was a once in a four-year trip.”
Said Nixon: “It was incredible. I was so glad I went. Initially, I was a little sad I couldn’t compete on the U18 team, but I had an amazing time (with Notre Dame).”
This summer, Egbo and Nixon have another chance to travel with USA Basketball. Both players were selected to the USA team that will play in the FIBA U19 World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand, from July 20-28. They reported to training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on July 5 and on July 11 head to Tokyo for a week of practices and scrimmages before the U19 World Cup.
“Coming back this year and being a part of the team is something that I would definitely like to say I’ve done,” Egbo said. “Not many athletes get to say they’ve played on a USA team.”
After their star-studded high school careers, Egbo and Nixon had relatively quiet freshman seasons with two of the premier college programs.
Nixon averaged 2.5 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 14.5 minutes per game while appearing in 26 of 39 games for Notre Dame, which was coming off a national championship.
“It was an experience,” Nixon said. “I didn’t have any expectations for it. It was just a one-day-at-a-time thing. It was chaotic in a good and bad way. One day, things are super-great, it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I’m playing Division I college basketball at Notre Dame.’ And other days, (you feel the pressure of that and) it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I’m playing Division I basketball at Notre Dame.’ There’s so much going on. You kind of need that. I’m kind of glad it happened the way it did, because I learned a lot about myself.”
Among the things Nixon learned was how to deal with injuries. The first came Nov. 17 when she sustained a concussion. An unexpected screen against DePaul University caused the injury. The concussion was compounded by the fact that Notre Dame then traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, for a three-day Thanksgiving tournament.
“I think the most frustrating part (of a concussion) is when it starts to get a little bit on the longer side of your recovery period and people ask, ‘How do you feel?’” said Nixon, who was sidelined for three weeks. “It’s like, ‘I feel OK. My head isn’t necessarily pounding or I’m not feeling nauseous or I’m not feeling myself.’ For anyone who’s had a concussion, you understand what that means. But then for other people, it’s like, ‘Well, OK, but you’re fine, you’re functioning normally.’ ... But it really is a serious injury.”
The second injury was a strained hamstring in February that kept her out of action for another three weeks. One of her focuses this summer is to improve the health of her body and make herself stronger without trying to overwork herself on weight training or building up too much muscle.
“A lot of times I wanted to do things, but I didn’t feel like I was in a position physically to do so,” Nixon said of getting stronger. “Just thinking about it, it doesn’t matter what you’re thinking or how fast your mind is going if your body can’t respond.”
Egbo didn’t have significant injuries to contend with during her first season at Baylor. She averaged 5.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in 10.4 minutes while appearing in 34 of 38 games as Baylor won this year’s national championship — against Nixon and Notre Dame.
“It was really exciting,” Egbo said of being on a team that won a national title. “It was definitely a good memory with our team.”
Neither Egbo nor Nixon played in either Final Four game, but it did help each set a goal to win a national championship in their next three seasons, Egbo with Baylor and Nixon, who is transferring from Notre Dame, with whichever program she ends up playing for next year.Motivated knowing they will be expected to play bigger roles, they came into the trials for the U19 team working on parts of their games, but also with the confidence of having made the team for the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
One thing Egbo noticed during the trials was the number of high school players trying to make a U19 team.
“It was honestly good, because they are still in high school and just seeing the talent coming now is a fun experience,” Egbo said. “I got to know a few of the girls. Knowing the high schoolers and talking about things.”
Egbo said she chatted with several of the high school players during the trials about her experience, not only with USA Basketball, but about the rigors of college.
“I just told them what it’s like going to college, being a freshman in college and how tough it is,” Egbo said. “Just getting to know your team will be better and establishing a good support system will be good, but there’s really no way you can adapt to college without being in college.”
Of the 12 players to make the USA U19 World Cup team, seven are either in high school or just graduated. So, players such as Egbo and Nixon will be thrust into a leadership role, while also remembering where they were as their college careers began.
“I think it’s really cool, actually,” Nixon said of the high school players. “When I play, I try not to think about the age difference. Just being a freshman playing with this past year’s (Notre Dame) team, we had five seniors. It’s easy to get caught up in the age difference and the experience disparity, (but) as long as we can get the job done together, I think we’ll be OK.”
Both players said they are honored to represent the U.S. in Thailand.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity,” Nixon said. “I realize the magnitude of it, but I don’t think you really feel it until you put that jersey on, until you are in the moment. USA Basketball is a standard of excellence. ... Just thinking about the tradition, I’m having trouble putting it into words.”