Kayla McBride Cashes in on Her Latest Opportunity with USA Basketball
The former Notre Dame star last played for the U.S. at the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
Twelve years ago, it appeared that Kayla McBride would be a fixture of USA Basketball teams for years to come.
As a member of the 2010 USA U18 National Team, McBride averaged 8.2 points and started all five games in helping the U.S. post a perfect record en route to the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The dynamic guard would soon be headed to the University of Notre Dame, where she became an All-American and guided the Fighting Irish to three NCAA Final Fours. And that was followed by outstanding runs in both the WNBA and the EuroLeague — careers that still continue today.
However, throughout all her collegiate and professional success, one achievement eluded McBride: a spot on the roster for a USA team seeking a medal in a FIBA competition.
Sure, McBride attended training camps, competed in exhibitions and was named a finalist for various squads. But despite being in the USA National Team pool since 2013, McBride still hasn’t played for a USA Basketball team, other than national team exhibition contests, since 2010.
“That was a long time ago,” McBride said with a chuckle, earlier this week.
Without a doubt, the memory of playing for her country a dozen years ago is one that McBride has been excited to experience again. And that brings us to this week’s training camp in Washington, D.C., where USA Basketball officially named McBride as a member of the team that will take part in FIBA World Cup qualifying games that follow.
The FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament will include U.S. games versus Belgium on Feb. 11 and against Puerto Rico on Feb. 12. The U.S. has already qualified for the 2022 World Cup as the defending Olympic champions.
McBride felt that this year’s training camp might be her best chance yet.
“This is a good opportunity,” McBride said. “I’m just trying to give everything I have. I’m 29 and I haven’t been on one of these teams for a while, since I was 18. I’ve been in the pool for a long time, and I think I have a really good shot to impact this team and be a vital part of it.”
Several factors likely played in McBride’s favor.
One is the roster turnover, as former stars such as Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have stepped back from international competition, while others like Elena Delle Donne, Angel McCoughtry and Breanna Stewart are coming back from significant injuries.
Another factor is McBride’s eye-catching success in Turkey, as she is among the EuroLeague’s leading scorers (19.8 ppg. ahead of the FIBA international break) as a star for Fenerbahce Safiport.
“This is my sixth year overseas,” McBride said, “and it’s just a comfort right now. I’ve been enjoying it, having fun. The game has slowed down a lot for me. I have a lot of confidence and a good system and it’s been fun. Moving into this next round of my career, in my 30s, I’m just trying to enjoy every moment.”
Another possible factor that may have helped McBride make the team is her relationship with new USA head coach Cheryl Reeve, who is also McBride’s WNBA head coach with the Minnesota Lynx. But McBride emphasized prior to camp that “it’s not about that.”
She wanted to earn her spot on the squad, fair and square. And she did.
Because despite the USA Basketball disappointments over the years, McBride has always carried herself with class. She has consistently used the near misses as motivation to improve her game, rather than reasons to sulk or blame others.
“I’ve just tried to move on and improve in places I felt like I could,” McBride said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into (making the team) and a lot of amazing players. Being a part of the pool itself is something that’s humbling. Knowing you’re playing with the best of the best and you’re representing the USA. These are All-Stars, Olympians.
“I’m always just trying to move forward. It’s not ‘woe is me.’ That’s not who I am. I’m just moving on and finding places I can improve and enjoying the experience.”
Drew Silverman is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.