U.S. Pan American Games Women's Basketball Team Set to Kick Off Play in Peru
From trials to determine the 12-member team, which were held over four days this past May, to a 14 day training camp that included traveling to Lima, Peru, for the 2019 Pan American Games, the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team finally is on the verge of its first game.
The U.S. women will open play on Aug. 6, against Argentina at 10 p.m. EDT (available live on Watch ESPN).
And on Aug. 3, three days before its first game, the U.S. team scrimmaged Canada and got its first taste of international competition in an unofficial 68-60 victory.
While the score might not have meant any more than temporary bragging rights, the U.S. coaches had plenty to evaluate during the game.
“There were some really good things, and then there were times when we need to grow up and learn a little bit and have a better commanding presence from certain positions and understand time, score and possession,” said USA head coach Suzy Merchant (Michigan State). “I thought we came out of the gates really strong.
“But, really, what I wanted to do was play everybody, get everybody on the court and get some experience.”
Five of the USA’s team members – Bella Alarie (Princeton/Bethesda, Md.), Chennedy Carter (Texas A&M/Mansfield, Texas), Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.), Taylor Mikesell (Maryland/Massillon, Ohio) and Beatrice Mompremier (Miami/Miami, Fla.) – previously have competed for USA Basketball in international competition.
Seven athletes, including Brittany Brewer (Texas Tech/Abilene, Texas), Kathleen Doyle (Iowa/Lagrange Park, Ill.), Michaela Onyenwere (UCLA/Aurora, Colo.), Mikayla Pivec (Oregon State/Lynnwood, Wash.), Lindsey Pulliam (Northwestern/Silver Spring, Md.), Kiana Williams (Stanford/San Antonio, Texas) and Peyton Williams (Kansas State/Topeka, Kan.), will be playing in their first FIBA-sanctioned event.
Assisting Merchant are Felisha Legette-Jack (Buffalo) and Vic Schaefer (Mississippi State).
“We really responded very well,” Schaefer said of the USA taking the court against Canada one day after arriving in Lima. “I was really proud. I thought our kids showed some toughness today.
“I don’t think we are where we want to be yet, but I have seen a lot of growth. I saw a lot of difference in the team today, and I think we are going to continue to get better. So, I’m really encouraged after the scrimmage.”
The athletes are not the only team members expected to embrace a role that may be different than the role they play with their college teams. Legette-Jack and Schaefer – successful NCAA Division I head coaches – also are challenged to refamiliarize themselves with how to be assistant coaches. For both, that is not an issue.
“We all work together, and we all just want to win,” Schaefer said. “At the end of the day, we just want to win. We all know that, and I’m here to do whatever it takes to help our head coach. I was an assistant for 15 years, so I’ve worn that hat before, and so I’m just here to help her win.”
The assistants also are there to support the athletes with further guidance or explanation. And for Legette-Jack, that includes challenging the frontcourt to be its best.
“I just love the dynamic of our coaching staff, and I think what I bring is energy, passion and post play,” Legette-Jack said. “We got some great post players – I will tell you that. I’m just so excited to be a part of this group of posts. They adjust so quickly. They are open. They are responsive.
“Vic brings that great offense. Suzy brings that team dynamic of what we need to do. My thing is the energy and passion, and I’m excited about that role.”
After meeting Argentina in its opener, the USA will continue against U.S. Virgin Islands at 7 p.m. EDT on Aug. 7 and then wrap up preliminary round play against Colombia at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 8.
Following the preliminary round, the top two teams from each pool will meet in the semifinals on Aug. 9, while the No. 5 and No. 6 teams will play for fifth and seventh places, respectively.
The bronze (7 p.m.) and gold medal games (10 p.m.) will be played on Aug. 10.
“We are going to have five games in five days, and we have to be able to work on something and continue to get better,” Merchant said. “It is a unique situation trying to put a team together basically in a week-and-a-half. You have to be ready for what you are going to face in very experienced and older professionals here.
“The scrimmage against Canada was an important step for us, just to see where we are at. It was a gauge for us to see what are our strengths, what are our weaknesses and what do we need to get better at.”