USA AmeriCup Women’s Finalists Open Camp
The 13 finalists for the 2021 USA Women’s AmeriCup Team will reconvene for training camp on June 1 in Columbia, South Carolina. Between June 1 and June 8, the USA not only will have to determine a 12-member roster, the group has to prepare to compete against national teams from Argentina, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela – and that’s just in group play.
The 13 finalists were announced on April 21 after four days of trials that also were held in Columbia, which is home to USA AmeriCup and USA National Team head coach Dawn Staley, who led the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament Final Four in 2021.
“I thought they did some things to create some separation,” Staley said of the 13 finalists after they were selected for a total of 20 athletes who started trials. “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.”
The roster is full of coaches and athletes who have collected NCAA Tournament and conference honors, as well as medals with USA Basketball.
Staley is joined by another USA National Team coach – Jennifer Rizzotti, who is a WNT and AmeriCup assistant coach and the recently announced Connecticut Sun president. Coincidentally, that news was announced during the April trials.
Adia Barnes (Arizona) rounds out the coaching staff, and she is coming off a 2020-21 season at the University of Arizona that saw the Wildcats reach the national championship game.
In addition to the medals won by Staley and Rizzotti, the finalists include eight USA medalists, including Aliyah Boston (South Carolina/St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.), 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.), Sedona Prince (Oregon/Liberty Hill, Texas) and NaLyssa Smith (Baylor/Converse, Texas).
Elissa Cunane (NC State/Summerfield, N.C.) participated in the 2019 USA U19 World Cup Team trials, and she competed for North Carolina State at the 2019 Red Bull USA Basketball 3x3 Nationals in Las Vegas, helping her team to a fourth-place finish and a 3-3 record.
Jakia Brown-Turner (NC State/Oxen Hill, Md.) participated in the 2018 USA Women's U17 World Cup Team Trials, and Ashley Owusu (Maryland/Woodbridge, Va.) was named as a finalist for the 2017 USA U16 National Team, and she took part in the 2016 U17 World Cup trials.
The finalists roster is rounded out by two athletes who were undertakingß their first USA Basketball experience back in April – Grace Berger (Indiana/Louisville, Ky.) and Veronica Burton (Northwestern/Newton, Mass.).
When the squad does head to Puerto Rico, the USA must finish in the top four to earn a spot in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournaments, and it will have to do so against two national teams who also are preparing to compete in the Olympics in just a few weeks this summer – Puerto Rico, which the USA will meet in pool play, and Canada, which is in the other group at the event.
Part of the reason 13 finalists were named for the teams is the USA Basketball selection committees wanted some flexibility to see what the strongest combination of 12 athletes would be.
“It was one of the most competitive trials I've been a part of,” said Rizzotti on April 21. Rizzotti also is chair of the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee.
“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.”