Thirteen Finalists Announced for 2021 USA Basketball Women’s AmeriCup Team
Following four days of trials that featured 20 athletes, 13 finalists for the 2021 USA Basketball Women’s AmeriCup Team were unveiled. The finalists will return for a training camp that will begin on June 1, and the official 12-member roster will be named prior to the team’s departure for the 2021 FIBA AmeriCup June 11-19 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The top four finishing teams at the AmeriCup will advance to compete in one of four 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournaments.
Named as finalists were: Grace Berger (Indiana/Louisville, Ky.); Aliyah Boston (South Carolina/St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.); Jakia Brown-Turner (NC State/Oxen Hill, Md.); Veronica Burton (Northwestern/Newton, Mass.); Elissa Cunane (NC State/Summerfield, N.C.); Destanni Henderson (South Carolina/Fort Meyers, Fla.); Naz Hillmon (Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio); Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.); Haley Jones (Stanford/Santa Cruz, Calif.); Diamond Miller (Maryland/Somerset, N.J.); Ashley Owusu (Maryland/Woodbridge, Va.); Sedona Prince (Oregon/Liberty Hill, Texas); and NaLyssa Smith (Baylor/Converse, Texas).
Athletes and coaches for the USA AmeriCup Team were selected by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee and USA Women’s Senior National Team Committee.
“It was one of the most competitive trials I've been a part of,” said Jennifer Rizzotti, chair of the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee. “I'm just so impressed with the level of play of these 20 female athletes. I'm also really impressed with their attitude, and their receptiveness and their willingness to want to get better over a four-day span. The decision was really hard for the committee, because there just wasn't a whole lot of separation, and I think those people that watched these women play this year in college basketball know how good of a talent level we had at this camp. We really appreciate the level of effort, professionalism and competitiveness that this group showed. At the end of the day of we feel really good about the group that we've put together to be the finalists.
“We wanted some flexibility on how to structure the roster and give Dawn (Staley) the ability to play people in the ways that she wants, and then be able to go down to Puerto Rico with the best compilation of players that gives us the best opportunity to win a gold medal.”
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, president of the Connecticut Sun.
“I want to talk about the 20 players out here that absolutely competed every single day,” Staley said. “This is not an easy thing to do, to have two-a-days for four-straight days. Throughout those eight sessions, you have good sessions and bad sessions. The committee selected 20 players who were great throughout trials. The 13 players that got selected are equally as great. I thought they did some things to create some separation. That's why they were named as finalists. It's safe to say that we got some of the very best college players that we had available to us, and we're looking forward to training camp and also looking forward to competing at the AmeriCup.”
Of the 13 finalists, eight players have won medals playing for USA Basketball. Boston has earned four gold medals competing for USA Basketball; Hillmon, Howard and Miller each have won two gold medals; and Jones, Prince and Smith each earned one gold medal.
In 2019, Boston, Hillmon, Howard and Miller teamed up to help the USA claim gold at the FIBA U19 World Cup; Hillmon, Howard, Prince and Smith claimed gold at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship; Boston and Jones took home gold from the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup; and Boston 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, Boston claimed gold at the 2018 Youth Olympics.
Ten nations from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean will take part in the 2021 FIBA AmeriCup, held June 11-19 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, including Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic and El Salvador from the Centrobasket Women’s Championship 2021; Canada and the USA; and the top four finishing teams from the South American Women’s Championship 2021 that will be played in May.
The top four finishing teams at the FIBA AmeriCup 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.