By Mike Siroky
Two international teams representing United States women’s basketball are being put together this weekend (starting Thursday).
At least seven players from the Southeastern Conference have accepted invitations to the trials; 34 athletes were invited.
The selected team will attempt to win a fifth-consecutive gold medal for the United States at the FIBA U19 World Championships. The 2013 tournament will be hosted by Lithuania from July 18-28 in Klaipeda and Panevežys. The USA team will start training on July 1 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. USA Basketball, the nation al coordinating organization, is in charge.
The selection is under the direction of hall-of-Fame Coach Jim Foster of Chattanooga.
"This group has a nice nucleus with some former gold medal winners in the mix and some new candidates that will allow us to field a very competitive team," said Foster. This is his ninth USA Basketball assignment.
This is the team that will provide a look at the younger players on the USA Olympics team for Games to come. Certainly, the experienced professionals will make up the core of the Games teams, but these Under-19s will be the future foundation.
From the University of Tennessee, sophomore Bashaara Graves – whom coach Holly Warlick credited al season with being the glue that held together the SEC champions -- and incoming freshman Jordan Reynolds will attend.
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.
That makes her a prohibitive favorite to continue playing.
Georgia also has two invitees, both of whom started for the Lady Bulldogs as freshmen in their run to a Regional Final as an Elite Eight team.
Shacobia Barbee and Tiaria Griffin draw praise from their college coach, Andy Landers.
"I think this is an outstanding opportunity for them and a compliment to the way that they performed this season," Landers said. "This should be a very positive experience for them and I'm confident they'll each represent Georgia Basketball very well."
Barbee, a 5-10, guard/forward from Murfreesboro, Tenn., was named to the All-Spokane Regional team of the NCAA Tournament and also was on the SEC's All-Defensive and All-Freshman teams. Barbee led the Lady Bulldogs in steals with 87, the third-most ever by a Georgia freshman.
Griffin, a 5-7, guard from Monticello, Miss., connected on a team-high 46 3-point field goal attempts. Griffin scored in double figures 10 times, four of those coming in games against ranked opponents. She scored 13 points, including 10 in the second half, in the Lady Bulldogs' upset of No. 1 seed Stanford in the "Sweet 16."
Georgia Lady Bulldogs have a lengthy and storied history representing USA Basketball; 25 Lady Bulldogs have represented USA Basketball in more than 40 international competitions worldwide.
Most notably, Teresa Edwards is the only player – male or female – to participate in five Olympic Games and captured four gold medals. Katrina McClain represented the USA in three Olympics and won gold medals in 1988 and 1996. Edwards and McClain were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Kentucky will be represented by incoming freshman Linnae Harper of Chicago.
Harper, a 5-foot-8 guard, won gold 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 highest-ranked recruit in UK Hoops history.
In addition to Foster, the 2013-16 USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team Committee includes 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.
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.
"I think it's a fantastic, dynamic, diverse group for international play," said USA and University of Miami coach Katie Meier.
"The committee understands the important parts of what it takes to win internationally. There's a lot of great and versatile size in this group, some really dynamic players who can do a lot of special things from 20-feet in.
“This is a really exciting, athletic group who are also very, very skilled. That's a real sign for the growth of our game throughout the country, that the U19s have this level of skill.
"This is going to be a very competitive trials. We've got a lot to play for, and the young ladies who have already won gold have already proven how competitive they are.
“But, I think there will be another sense of, absolutely, nothing is given. There's no automatic `you're going to make the team.' That's obvious. We don't even have enough slots for everyone who's won a Gold medal, and then you look at the rest of the talent who's coming in hungry for their first chance to win gold. We're going to see a very, very high level of competition and probably some of the best scrimmages we've ever seen."
Assisting Meier and the U19 squad are collegiate coaches Nikki Caldwell of Louisiana State University, a former Lady Vol player and assistant, and Kelly Graves of Gonzaga University. Additionally, American University head coach Matt Corkery, University of Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey and University of Tulsa head coach Matilda Mossman will serve as court coaches during the trials.
Six members of the 2012 USA U18 National Team that earned the USA its 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship berth are returning to compete for a spot on the 2013 USA U19 World Championship Team.
The undisputed team leader will be UConn’s Breanna Stewart, the MVP of the Huskies’ National Championship team. Two other UConn recruits have been invited.
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.
In addition to the 13 gold medalists attending the USA U19 trials, 10 others have participated in a USA Basketball trials previously.
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, including Alana Beard (2001); Essence Carson (2005); Tamika Catchings (1997); Crystal Langhorne (2005); Jantel Lavender (2007); Lisa Leslie (1989); Rebecca Lobo (1993); Maya Moore (2007); Nnemkadi Ogwumike (2009); Vickie Orr (1985); Courtney Paris (2005); Cappie Pondexter (2001); Katie Smith (1993); Dawn Staley (1989); Breanna Stewart (2011); Diana Taurasi (2001); Abby Waner (2005); and Candice Wiggins (2005).
Additionally, eight athletes from the first seven USA U19 squads have advanced to compete in the Olympic Games, including Catchings, Leslie, Lobo, Moore, Pondexter, Smith, Staley and Taurasi.
Based in Colorado Springs, Colo., USA Basketball is a nonprofit organization and the national governing body for men’s and women’s basketball in the United States.
As the recognized governing body for basketball in the U.S. by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA teams that compete in FIBA sponsored international basketball competitions, as well as for some national competitions.
USA teams are the current men's and women's champions in the Olympics, men’s and women’s FIBA World Championships; women’s FIBA U19 World Champions; men's and women's FIBA U17 World Champions; and the men's and women's U18 and U16 FIBA Americas champions; as well as winners of the women’s FIBA 3X3 World Championship and 3x3 U18 World Championship.
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