Two SEC Players Make USA Basketball U-19 Squad
Seven players from the Southeastern Conference accepted invitations to the United States tryouts for FIBA U19 World Championships; 34 athletes were invited.
In the end, only Bashara Graves of Tennessee and incoming freshman Linna Harper of Kentucky made the cut from the conference.
The 6-foot-2 Graves was the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year and a Full Court Freshman All-American. She is one of six members of the 2012 USA U18 National Team that captured the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in August to secure a berth in this summer's U19 competition.
The 5-8 Harper is from Chicago. She won gold medals as a member of the 2012 USA U17 World Championship Team and the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship Team. She also was awarded an honorary bronze medal in the inaugural 2011 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship.
She is the Wildcats’ top recruit ever, both a McDonald’s All-America and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-America. She averaged 19 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game during her senior season.
UConn is the best-represented school on the team, with all three invited players making the cut. If there was a solid lock it had to be UConn’s Breanna Stewart, the MVP of the Huskies’ National Championship team.
Stewart was the MVP of the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and member of the five-member 2009 All-FIBA U19 World Championship Tournament Team.
She has helped USA squads earn gold at the 2010 U17 and 2011 U19 FIBA World Championships, as well as the 2009 U16 and 2012 U18 FIBA Americas Championships. The 2011 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year was the lone high school athlete on the 2011 USA Pan American Games Team.
Moriah Jefferson, a 5-7 guard from Glenn Heights, Texas; and Morgan Tuck, a 6-2 forward from Bolingbrook (a Chicago suburb) are the other two with UConn futures on this team. They are the only three to ever repeat as U19 teammates.
Other high schoolers to make it are A’ja Wilson, a 6-4 forward from Hopkins, S.C.; Brianna Turner, a 6-3 forward from Pearland, Texas; and Gabby Green, a 6-1 guard from Oakland, Calif. This was Wilson’s first tryout for USA Basketball. As if life for other teams was not difficult enough in UConn’s universe, she said last week – during the trials – that Storrs was a likely college destination. She flew to the trials on the same flight as the UConn trio.
With that, UConn has dropped its pursuit of Turner who has Baylor and Duke as her top two choices. Green, though, remains another UConn possibility. The hint: She played on Team Taurasi in California summer leagues.
Others with collegiate experience are 6-6 center (the tallest selectee) Candice Agee of Penn State; Alexis Jones, a 5-8 guard from Duke; Kelsey Plum, a 5-8 guard from Poway, Calif, committed to Duke; and Nia Coffey, a 6-2 forward from Minneapolis committed to Northwestern.
In addition to chairman and new Tenn.-Chattanooga coach Jim Foster, the 2013-16 USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team Committee included NCAA appointees Melanie Balcomb (coach, Vanderbilt University), Lindsay Gottlieb (coach, University of California) and Joi Williams (coach, UCF), as well as athlete representative, WNBA player Kara Lawson, a 2008 Olympic Gold medalist who has played on nine USA Basketball teams. Lawson spoke to the group during the trials, about the responsibilities of representing their country.
“We were able to pick a U19 team that has a lot of strengths in a lot of different areas,” said Foster. “I think that bodes well for them. They have good size. They have some people who can put the ball in the basket. They’re athletic, and I think they can be good defensively. It’s a team that has a lot of potential to be very successful.
“The team has some players whose skill set is a little different than their position. Breanna Stewart, A’Ja Wilson and Brianna Turner are all 6-3 or above and are equally as comfortable putting the ball on the floor after they get a rebound and starting a fast break on their own. It’s an interesting dimension, and it makes the team that much more versatile because you could actually play some of them at wing positions and have a very, very big team on the floor. It makes for a lot of versatility.”
The coach this summer, Miami’s Katie Meier, agreed.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “The length is incredible, the talent, the diversity. Everybody brings a little something different.
“That gives us a lot of choices as coaches in a lot of different ways that we can win basketball games. (The committee) put together what I think is the team that answers any type of a question. We have speed. We have quickness. We have size. We have shooters. They really made sure that they gave us every weapon.”
Drawn into Group D, the U.S. will play its preliminary and second round games in PaneveÂžys, and opens against Lithuania on July 18, followed by China on July 19 and caps the preliminary round against Mali on July 20.
The top three finishing teams from each first-round group will advance to the second round, held July 22-24. The 12 nations qualifying for the second round will be divided into Groups E and F. Each team will play the three new teams in its new group, with all results of games played in the preliminary round carrying over to determine the second-round standings.
Just as it was in the U19 USA Basketball team, UConn is represented on the World University Games team
At the same time as the U19 trials, the World University Games team will also be assembled. The U19 participants are also eligible for that team.
The 2013 World University Games women’s basketball competition is scheduled for July 8-15 in Kazan, Russia.
Numerous top athletes have represented the United States at the U19s and eight players from the first seven USA U19 squads have advanced to compete in the Olympic Games.
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