Nine Athletes Selected to 2021 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team
-- Five Named as Finalists for Final Three Roster Spots --
Including seven USA Basketball gold medalists, nine athletes age 19-and-under were named to the 2021 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Cup Team following three days of trials, May 14-16 in Denver. Additionally, five finalists will return to the USA’s training camp, which begins on July 19 at a site to be announced, in hopes of securing one of the remaining three roster spots. Selections were announced by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Selection Committee.
The 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup will be contested Aug. 7-19 in Debrecen, Hungary. The final 12-member team will be named prior to the departure for Europe, where it will continue training for the FIBA U19 World Cup.
The nine 2021 USA U19 World Cup Team members are Lauren Betts (Grandview H.S./ Centennial, Colo.); Sonia Citron (The Ursuline School/Scarsdale, N.Y.); Caitlin Clark (Iowa/West Des Moines, Iowa); Sania Feagin (Forest Park H.S./Ellenwood, Ga.); Azzi Fudd (St. John’s College H.S. (D.C.)/ Arlington, Va.); Diamond Johnson (North Carolina State/Philadelphia, Pa.); Te-hina Paopao (Oregon/Oceanside, Calif.); Jewel Spear (Wake Forest/The Colony, Texas); and Payton Verhulst (Bishop Meige H.S./DeSoto, Kan).
The five finalists include Amari DeBerry (Williamsville South H.S./Buffalo, N.Y.); Angel Reese (Maryland/ Baltimore, Md.); Lauren Ware (Arizona/Bismarck, N.D.); Maddy Westbeld (Notre Dame/Kettering, Ohio); and Jersey Wolfenbarger (Northside H.S./Fort Smith, Ark.).
Athletes eligible for this team must be U.S. citizens, born on or after Jan. 1, 2002.
“It was a very spirited camp and fun for the committee to watch,” said Jennifer Rizzotti, chair of the selection committee and Connecticut Sun president. “I feel like the players did a phenomenal job of playing for each other, which made the final selection really difficult. Because some players were unable to attend the camp, our final decision to have finalists gives some flexibility to filling out the last roster spots.
“The committee is excited about the group of players we’re giving Cori and her staff to be able to go to Hungary and compete for another gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Cup.”
“I’m very thankful that I’m not having to make the decisions for the team,” said Cori Close, USA U19 and UCLA head coach. “I’m really pleased with the versatility of this group, with the ability to shoot the ball, with the physicality of it. So, I’m excited to get this group back together to start practicing because this is a really hard tournament to win and we’re going to have to dig deep to do it. I think the committee selected a group that can get it done.”
Westbeld was invited to the USA U19 trials, but unable to participate. She applied to the committee for a waiver, which was granted.
Included among the 14 athletes who will attend training camp in July are seven athletes who were college freshmen in 2020-21, six current high school seniors who will matriculate to college in the fall and another one who is a high school junior from the Class of 2022.
The overall team and finalists roster includes two who each have captured a pair of gold medals playing for USA Basketball. Clark, who was a member of the 2019 USA U19 gold medal winning squad, and Fudd, who claimed gold at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, are the two double-gold medalists on the team. They teamed up to help the 2017 USA U16 National Team claim gold at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
In 2019, Verhulst claimed MVP honors after leading the USA U16 National Team to gold and was joined on the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship All-Star Five by Betts and Citron. Also aiding the U.S. to gold at that event was DeBerry.
Additionally, Clark and Reese were finalists for the 2018 USA U17 World Cup Team and Feagin was a finalist for the 2019 USA U16 squad.
Including the abovementioned team members and finalists, athletes who participated in at least one USA Basketball trials include Paopao, Spear, Westbeld and Wolfenbarger.
In 3x3 action, Betts, DeBerry, Fudd, Spear and Verhulst took part in either the 2018 or 2019 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship.
College head coaches Aaron Johnston from South Dakota State University and Joni Taylor from the University of Georgia are assistant coaches for this year’s U19 squad.
Featuring U19 teams from 16 nations, the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup qualified nations include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, host Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mali, Russia, South Korea, Spain and the USA.
The USA will open play against Italy on Aug. 7, followed by Australia on Aug. 8 and cap preliminary play against Egypt on Aug. 10. Times will be announced by FIBA at a later date.
Reigning FIBA U19 World Cup gold medalist, USA women’s teams have won eight gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal while compiling an 86-13 overall record in U19 World Cup play since the event was launched in 1985. Even more impressive, the USA has posted a 62-3 record and won seven of the past eight U19 golds since 2005.
In addition to Rizzotti, the USA Junior National Team Selection Committee includes 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.