CAIRO, Egypt – The beginning of girls summer travel basketball starts next week across the USA for the bulk of scholarship seeking athletes.
As everyone knows there are two levels of basketball participation – the casual and the serious. If you’re playing basketball into your high school years you know this is about a social and athletic compact with your teammates. It’s also, for a large group of these players, an opportunity to either hone their basketball skills in search of a scholarship or the chance to compete for the eyeballs of college coaches who have scholarships in hand.
There’s also a third group which most people in youth basketball are aware of – the best. While everyone’s judgement of talent, potential and realization differ, for those selected to any of the USA Basketball youth teams there is a simple, common denominator; they know they’re going to be recruited hard.
What comes with this honor is the chance to play on a world stage against some of the best competition from around the globe. USA Basketball teams travel the world for the various FIBA youth level events each year in cycles of 16 Americas / 19 Worlds and 17 Worlds / 18 Americas. Those players compete for a spot at the USA Basketball trials each year, hopefully make a team then practice with team members new and old and ultimately…go play.
In the past, a great high school player, such as Breanna Stewart (UConn), would get the opportunity to chase five gold medals (2009-2013) but also depending on the FIBA dates could possibly miss summer travel basketball for her team (The Philadelphia Belles Nike program in Stewart’s case) or make a year-end event after grueling FIBA competition. In 2010 both Stewart and acclaimed, 6-3 center Elizabeth Williams (Duke) of the Boo Williams Nike program came back from their FIBA gold medal performances in Toulouse-Rodez, France to a lack-luster final few days of summer basketball at Nike Nationals in August, Ga. Both were competitors yet both were coming off jet-lag with a sense of non-urgency and lesser competition. Despite this they were the top players in girls basketball.
The members of this year’s 2017 USA Basketball U16 team had to make the team back at the end of May, stay and practice and then travel to Argentina, winning the gold – all before the middle of June. All just weeks before the summer travels circuit starts.
I had the chance to ask three of USA Basketball top talents about their expectations from winning gold to winning on the summer circuit immediately after their gold medal run down in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The person with the most perspective was 6-2 rising senior Samatha Brunelle (William Monroe HS / Ruckersville, VA) who was a member of the USA 2016 U17 Silver Medal team.
USA Team Captain Samantha Brunelle talks about re-joining her team and friends after this event.
For first time USA U16 team player 5-11 junior Celeste Taylor (Long Island Lutheran HS / Valley Stream, NY) it was about what she will bring back home.
USA U16 team member Celeste Taylor speaks about what she will bring back home after the USA Basketball experience.
The youngest and most acclaimed youth player to make a USA Basketball roster, rising freshman 5-11 Azzi Fudd (St. John’s Prepatory HS / Falls Church, VA) has the distinction of not even playing a high school minute yet but has already won gold on the international stage.
USA U16 team member Azzi Fudd relates meeting 11 new players and impacting her summer team.
Expect many youth girls basketball fans, evaluators , fake-media types, travel coaches, college recruiters and legitimate media representatives to put this entire roster under the microscope to determine if the experience either helped or spoiled their “game and name”. Each one will have a competitive bulls-eye on their backs as many other athletes and teams try to knock them off and down. For those who made it to the trials but were cut along the way, each contest against any of the USA team members will be viewed as an opportunity for redemption and experience.
Who will rise up or down will be the talk of the summer as the fight for spots on the USA U17 World Championship roster starts now. And those who ultimately do claim a 2018 USA roster spot won’t be available next summer as the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup event is scheduled the end of July. Expect selected members of USA U17 team to miss next July’s NCAA evaluation period entirely.
The clock is winding down – the games start in front of NCAA Division 1 college coaches on July 6th at 8 a.m. There are big summer event stops in Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Dallas, Louisville, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Denver and Washington DC. The never ending race for being the best resumes anew.
Fourteen Days over July – Let the competition begin.