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Naz Hillmon, Rhyne Howard, Ashley Joens

Ten Gold Medalists Headline 2021 USA Women’s AmeriCup Team Trials Invitees

  • Date:
    Apr 14, 2021

Twenty of the nation’s top collegiate athletes, including 10 who have captured a combined 21 gold medals competing on past USA Basketball teams, have accepted invitations to attend the April 18-21, 2021 USA Basketball Women’s AmeriCup Team trials.

Invitations to the trials, which will be held at the University of South Carolina, were issued by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee and USA Women’s Senior National Team Committee.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, no media or guests will be allowed to view trials sessions. USA Basketball will provide media with images and b-roll for non-commercial, editorial use on a daily basis.

The 20 athletes who have accepted an invitation to attend trials are: Grace Berger (Indiana/Louisville, Ky.); Aliyah Boston (South Carolina/St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.); Jakia Brown-Turner (NC State/Oxen Hill, Md.); Rae Burrell (Tennessee/Las Vegas, Nev.); Veronica Burton (Northwestern/Newton, Mass.); Zia Cooke (South Carolina/Toledo, Ohio); Elissa Cunane (NC State/Summerfield, N.C.); Destanni Henderson (South Carolina/Fort Meyers, Fla.); Naz Hillmon (Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio); Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.); Ashley Joens (Iowa State/Iowa City, Iowa); Haley Jones (Stanford/Santa Cruz, Calif.); Elizabeth Kitley (Virginia Tech/Summerfield, N.C.); Diamond Miller (Maryland/Somerset, N.J.); Ashley Owusu (Maryland/Woodbridge, Va.); Khayla Pointer (Louisiana State/Marietta, Ga.); Sedona Prince (Oregon/Liberty Hill, Texas); NaLyssa Smith (Baylor/Converse, Texas); Jenna Staiti (Georgia/Cumming, Ga.); and Hailey Van Lith (Louisville/Wenatchee, Wash.).

“The AmeriCup is a national level competition with some of the best players in the Americas,” said Jennifer Rizzotti, chair of the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee. “Being a part of the staff in 2019 gave me a taste of the intensity level of this tournament and the Olympic-level players in it.  We need to bring the best players available and that's who our committee has worked to identify. Because we are unable to bring WNBA players, we will rely on the best returning college players. Obviously, this is a very talented group with good junior national team level USA Basketball experience, but they will learn quickly the difference when playing against pros. So, we'll need to find the 12 players who are up to the challenge of helping us in our dual goal of claiming gold and advancing to the 2022 World Cup qualifying tournament.”

USA National Team head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina) will serve as head coach of the USA AmeriCup Team, and she will be assisted by University of Arizona head coach Adia Barnes and Rizzotti, 2021 USA National Team assistant coach.

Of the 10 gold medalists, Boston and Van Lith each have earned four gold medals competing for USA Basketball; Cooke, Hillmon (pictured above left), Howard (pictured above middle), Joens (pictured above right) and Miller each have won two gold medals; and Jones, Prince and Smith each earned one gold medal.

In 2019, Boston, Hillmon, Howard, Joens, Miller and Van Lith teamed up to help the USA claim gold at the FIBA U19 World Cup; Hillmon, Howard, Joens, Prince and Smith claimed gold at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship; Boston, Cooke, Jones and Van Lith took home gold from the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup; and Boston, Cooke and Miller helped the USA capture gold at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Additionally, Henderson and Prince were on the bronze medalist USA team at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Cup; and Prince returned with a bronze medal from the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

In 3x3 action, Van Lith led the USA to gold at the 2019 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup, where she also collected tournament MVP honors; and Boston and Van Lith teamed up to claim gold at the 2018 Youth Olympics.

Ten nations from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean will take part in the 2021 AmeriCup, held June 11-19 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The top four finishing teams will advance to compete in one of four 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournaments in hopes of earning one of the 12 spots in the 2022 FIBA World Cup field. Australia, host of the 2022 World Cup, and the 2020 Olympic champion, earn automatic berths to the World Cup, but will be required to participate in the qualifying process.

The USA has played in five previous FIBA AmeriCups, historically used as a qualifier for an Olympics or FIBA World Cup, including 1989, 1993, 1997, 2007 and 2019. The U.S. has captured three gold medals and one silver medal, while compiling a 24-7 all-time record. In the two most recent AmeriCups in which the USA has competed, the U.S. women were a perfect, 11-0 and won a pair of gold medals.

The USA Basketball Women’s Junior and Senior National Team Committees, due to the nature of the event, combined efforts to identify the coaching staff and athletes for the 2021 USA AmeriCup Team.

The USA Senior National Team Committee is chaired by USA Basketball Women’s National Team director Carol Callan; and includes 2009-16 USA National Team head coach Geno Auriemma, head coach at the University of Connecticut; WNBA head of league operations Bethany Donaphin; WNBA Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller; and three-time Olympic and two-time FIBA World Cup gold medalist Katie Smith, assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx.

The USA Junior National Team Selection Committee is chaired by Rizzotti, who recused herself during discussions for her assistant coach position; Temple University head coach Tonya Cardoza; 2008 Olympic gold medalist and Duke University head coach Kara Lawson; and North Carolina State University head coach Wes Moore.

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