USA U17, U18 Women Open Training Camp in Florida
It has been just seven days since the 12 members of the 2012 USA Basketball Women's U17 World Championship Team heard their named called as a team member following trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and it has been only six days for the 12 members of the 2012 USA Basketball Women's U18 National Team members, which ended their trails one day later.
Barely a week later, both teams took the court for the first time at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Fla., to begin step two of their respecitve quests for a gold medal at the FIBA U17 World Championship and the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
"I didn't really get a chance to celebrate making the team," said Lindsay Allen (St. John's College High School, D.C./ Bowie, Md.), a U17 player who will don a USA jersey for the first time. "I just got home and studied for finals. My parents were chanting U-S-A in the baggage claim area, though."
Though the USA U17 women will travel to Netherlands and the USA U18 women will compete in Puerto Rico, both in August, the teams will train seperately, together and against each other this week in Florida.
"I don't have any specific goals at this point," Allen said of training camp. "I'm just going to do whatever is asked of me."
One thing certain to be asked of both USA teams is to learn and learn quickly. The Brazil U17 and U18 National Teams also are training in Orlando this week, and each team will take on its Brazilian counterpart twice. First the USA will play an open scrimmage at 5 p.m. (EDT) on May 29. Then on May 31, the USA U17s take on Brazil's U17s at 4 p.m.(EDT) and the USA U18 team plays Brazil's U18s at 7 p.m. (EDT), both exhibition games are open to the public and will be broadcast online at ESPN3.com.
"I think that it's going to be a good thing in terms of waking our kids up," said USA U17 head coach Jill Rankin Schneider (Monterey H.S., Texas). "I think it will help make sure the girls have the respect that they should for their opponents. (The USA U16 team) won so many games handily last summer, but Brazil wasn't one of them. They really made us work for it. So I think the scrimamge will be a really good thing, expecially for those kids who are new to our game."
Schneider, her assistant coaches Gail Hook (Monarch H.S., Colo.) and Letitia Hughley (Mott C.C., Mich.) and six 2012 U17 team members helped the USA qualify for this year's FIBA U17 World Championship with a 5-0 record and gold medal in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mexico. Five newcomers and two-time USA gold medalist Diamond DeShields (Norcross H.S./Norcross, Ga.) round out the U17 team.
The USA U18 team will compete in a zone qualifer -- not only looking for a gold medal, but also working to earn a qualifying berth for the USA into next summer's 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship. The top three finishing teams earn a spot.
Before the scrimmages against Brazil, though, come a long list of "to-dos" from each set of coaches.
"We're just really excited because at trials we didn't get the opportunity to teach them much," said USA U18 head coach Katie Meier (University of Miami). "So today is the first day to really talk about themes and concepts and philosophy. We'll be fleixble and get in what we can get in and still make sure we are being fundamental. There is a lot of skill work that we want to do, and I imagine we will have to throw a lot at them these next couple of days."
Along with Meier and assistant coaches Nikki Caldwell (Louisiana State University) and Kelly Graves (Gonzaga University), seven USA U18 team members will suit up for USA Basketball for the first time. The team also includes five USA Basketball veterans each with at least one international gold medal.
There is a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, so while the team is staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, the players will not visit any of the area's theme parks.
"I was prepared for that," said U18 team member and 2011 U16 gold medalist Bashaara Graves (Clarksville H.S./Clarksville, Tenn.). "I kind of knew it would be all business. But I think it gives us time to bond a little bit, especially being here because we have so much to do. We just chill with each other and have bonding moments."
The reigning champion at the FIBA U17 World Championship and the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, the USA has begun its mission to defend both titles.