WU17 National Team Ready to Go For Gold at 2022 FIBA World Cup
Ahead of the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup, which starts Saturday, July 9, the USA Basketball U17 Women’s National Team will look to capture its fifth gold medal dating back to 2010.
Coached by longtime Junior National Team coach Sue Phillips (Archbishop Mitty H.S., Calif), Tom McConnell (Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pa.) and Brittanny Johnson (Evanston Township H.S., Ill.), the USA is eager to compete in Hungary following a week of training camp in Colorado Springs.
“We’ll be facing the best competition from around the world, so there’s no comparative to this experience and it will be uniquely challenging,” said Phillips when asked about coaching a world cup team. “There’re different styles of play, varied skill sets, and highly elite talent. It’s an absolute blast to plan our work and work our plan.”
The USA also benefitted from some pre-tournament exhibitions that took place over the past week, in which they were able to face off against France, Spain and Australia in Salamanca, Spain. Phillips wanted the team to prepare for the increased physicality and toughness faced with international competition, as well as reinforce the team’s goal of playing at a relentless pace.
“The friendly tournament in Salamanca was terrific,” Phillips detailed. “We faced superb competition and made some great strides as a team.”
The stage is set for some compelling play in Group D, with the USA having only a few prior World Cup matchups against their group play opponents. The USA hold a 3-0 overall record against Mali since 2010 and will face Germany and New Zealand for the first time in a U17 World Cup.
Outside of Group D, the USA will contend for gold amongst a teeming field of competitors. The U.S. enters as the No. 1-ranked team after collecting the most points through FIBA contests. Australia, the No. 2-ranked team entering the tournament, highlight Group B. The Americans are 36-1 overall in U17 World Cup competition, with their only loss being to Australia in 2016. The Aussies have medaled in the past two World Cup’s and won gold in 2016, but will have to compete with France, the No. 3 FIBA-ranked team, for the top spot coming out of Group B.
Group A features two top 10 ranked teams in Japan and Hungary, the host country for the contest. Group C features fifth-ranked Spain, as well as Canada, who would covet a rematch with the U.S. after falling to the Americans in the Championship game at the FIBA U16 Americas Championship in 2021.
USA: Players to Watch
Mikaylah Williams enters the World Cup as the top ranked incoming senior in ESPNW’s class of 2023 rankings. The 2022 Gatorade Louisiana Girls Basketball Player of the Year and LSU commit is on her second competitive assignment with USA Basketball after winning gold at the 2021 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup. Williams will look to put her scoring prowess on display in Debrecen, but she won’t have to carry the load with the player’s she’ll be surrounded by on the U.S. squad.
Another member of the 2023 class and No. 2 player in the country is guard Juju Watkins. The California native won a slew of individual awards for her play in 2021-22, including Gatorade California Girls Basketball Player of the Year and MaxPreps National Player of the Year, after averaging 24.5 points and 10.3 rebounds while helping Sierra Canyon School (Chatsworth, Calif.) to a CIF Open Division State Championship. The World Cup is her second experience competing with USA Basketball after winning gold and finishing with All-Star Five honors and the Championship MVP award at the 2021 FIBA U16 Americas Championship.
Fellow U16 Americas Championship gold medalists Breya Cunningham and Jada Williams will also be returning to USA Basketball. The two play together and at La Jolla Country Day School (La Jolla, Calif), where they are both set to enter their senior year this upcoming season.
In total, the U17 National Team boasts a returning group of six players from the U16 National Team that won gold just a year ago. Also returning from the U16 National Team are those leading the U17 squad from the pine, with Phillips and McConnell making their return as coaches from the 2021 Americas Championship gold medal team.
Despite a roster packed with new and returning individual talent, the strength of the U.S. team lies in the team mentality and bond the players are curating on the court.
“We’re striving to continue to strengthen our court chemistry,” said Sue Phillips. “Also communicating at a high level so that defensively we are in unison from baseline to baseline will be paramount to our success as a team. Individually, we hope that each player and coach embrace this honor to represent the country and make new friendships while pursuing excellence together.”
U17 History and Accomplishments
In U17 competition, USA Basketball has captured the gold medal in four of five occurrences since the event’s inception in 2010. The U.S. took back gold at the last women’s U17 World Cup in 2018 after winning bronze in 2016.
The 2020 U17 Women’s World Cup was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.