UConn's Talent Pool Reflected in USA Basketball's World University Games Squad
Just as it was in the U19 USA Basketball team (see post below this one), UConn is represented on the World University Games team under the direction of USA Basketball.
At the same time as the U19 trials, the World University Games team was assembled at Colorado Springs.
That team will include two from UConn, 6-0 forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Leiws and 5-7 guard Bria Hartley. No other school placed two. With three on the U19 team, UConn has five players in international play this summer representing the United States.
Others on the Gamesteam: 5-7 guard Aaryn Ellenberg of Oklahoma (her coach is also the Games coach); 6-0 guard Crystal Bradford of Central Michigan; 6-2 forward Jordan Hooper of Nebraska; 6-1 guard Tricia Liston of Duke; 6-3 forward ReShanda Gray of California; 6-2 forward Cassie Harberts of UCLA; 6-1 guard Ariel Massengale of Tennessee; 6-5 forward Theresa Plaisance of LSU; 5-9 guard Shoni Schimmel of Louisville; and 5-8 guard Odyssey Sims of Baylor.
The same selection committee, chaired by the University of Chattanooga’s Jim foster, selected this team as well.
“We were able to put together a very diverse team and a very good shooting team,” Foster said. “They can really space the floor, spread the floor and will have the opportunity to play small at times, and I think will be able to take advantage of those attributes.
“It's a versatile team that allows Sherri (Coale) to play a lot of ways.”
Coale, the Oklahoma coach, is the Games coach, assisted by Brian Girogis of Marist and Coquese Washington of Penn State.
“Well, I was incredibly impressed with the respectful nature of the group, the way they competed, they're willingness to learn,” Coale said.
“They are tremendous college basketball players from great programs all across the country, and they were incredibly willing to take direction. Selfless play, trying to make one another better. It was a really high-energy trial and a bunch of really great kids."
Sims is the odd-on favorite to be the Player of the Year in the NCAAs next edition.
She was the last name announced and, “I was a little nervous. I thought maybe my name wasn't going to get called. I was excited. I had decided if I did make I was going to be happy, and if I didn't make I was still going to be happy.”
She had a steady trials and felt she got better as they progressed.
“I was able to make my team around me look good even when we didn't win. I tried to do the best I could. So, I am excited. I will be more excited when we come back and practice, and I get a chance to be with all of these other players, surround myself with them, learn what they do best and be able to just play with them and compete for a gold medal.”
Mosqueda-Lewis, dealing with having won the NCAA title, said she concentrated on her all-around game.
“I was a little nervous because I definitely did not shoot very well during this whole tryout, and that's kind of my job. I tried to do a lot of other stuff, like rebounding, hustling hard on defense. Luckily it worked.”
She in her fourth USA Basketball lineup.
“It's still special,” she said. “Every time is special. Now it's really cool because I will be playing with girls that I have played against in college. A lot of them, Odyssey and Tricia and a lot of them I watched before I even got to college and said, 'They're really good.' Now I get to play with them, so it's really cool.”
Massengale said it was very difficult to relax.
“I was nervous. I barely slept last night (before the announcement),” she said. “It's just nerve-wracking when you are competing against 32 other great players. Anyone here was capable of making the team, so it's just an honor.”
She used her skills as the Lady Vol leader to stand out.
“I think it was just my leadership. Being a point guard, being vocal with my teammates, not worrying about myself but trying to put them in the best position for our team to be successful.”
It is also her fourth USA Basketball assignment.
“It's very special,” she said. “The committee doesn't really look at if you made it before, because that is in the past. It depends on what you do during these try outs here. It's definitely an honor. I'm blessed. Coaches tell me, ‘You put in the work and it's going to pay off for you,’ so I'm very excited.”
The irrepressible Hooper used her rookie energy to deal with the altitude of Colorado Springs and the nerves of being a first-timer at trials. She blanked out the rest of the team announcement.
“Blank. I honestly didn’t hear anything except my name, and that was it. It was just a huge shock.
“This is pretty cool. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it, so getting called was just huge. I don’t even know what to do with myself right now.
“The first two days I didn’t really play my best, and then I just kind of stepped up and played my game, and I think that’s kind of what they saw.”
Her Cornhusker work ethic paid off.
“What I brought – my rebounding, my shooting, stuff like that. Hopefully I can work on my defense, so just whatever they need. (I will do) whatever they want me to do.
"Probably get in shape and stuff like that. I wasn’t in very good shape (laughing), so I’m definitely going to work hard on that. Just play hard and keep playing.
“There’s definitely an (altitude) difference, especially from Lincoln and what I’m used to. It’s just a whole different altitude level, no breath and all that kind of stuff.”
Hartley seemed smooth throughout, with enough doubts about the selection to play with an edge.
“I thought I played OK,” she said. “I didn't think I played my best basketball ever. I'm just really happy that the committee picked me. I'm really excited that I was good enough to make the team.
“I was a little nervous. Even though I have made the team before, you don't want to come in here thinking, 'Oh, I'm definitely going to make the team.' You have to stay humble, but you also want to be confident, thinking you could possibly make the team. You have to come out and play basketball the way you know how to.”
She stressed her overall game.
“I think it was versatility, because I am a combo-guard. I can play a little bit of the 1 and the 2 and I can make sure all of my teammates are involved. Also, just talking and encouraging, that's the main thing I like to do.”
The 2013 World University Games women’s basketball competition is scheduled for July 8-15 in Kazan, Russia.
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