Stokes Prepares For 'Different' Experience
Colorado Springs, Colo. • August 9, 2010
Even with one international tournament under her belt, Kiah Stokes (Linn-Mar H.S./Marion, Iowa) still isn’t ready to say she knows exactly what to expect during the Youth Olympic Games.
After all, Stokes played on the 2009 USA Women’s U16 Team, averaging 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mexico City, helping to lead the USA to a perfect 5-0 finish and the gold medal. That tournament, played on the same continent and in the same time zone as her hometown, featured conventional, 5-on-5 basketball.
The women’s basketball competition in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, which is 13 hours ahead of Central Daylight Time, will be played with a 3-on-3 game format.
So, even though Stokes is the only player on the four-person U.S. Women’s Youth Olympic Games Team with previous international playing experience, this tournament is “different.”
While Stokes and her three teammates – Briyona Canty (Trenton Catholic Academy/Willingboro, N.J.), Andraya Carter (Buford H.S./Flowery Branch, Ga.) and Amber Henson (Sickles H.S./Tampa, Fla.) – train in Springfield, Mass., USA Basketball caught up with Stokes to talk about the tournament, the team’s preparation and having a dad who played in the NBA and won gold with the 1982 USA Pan American Games Team.
Has the fact that you’ll be playing in Singapore hit you yet?
Not really, no. Not yet. I think it’ll hit me once we get there and see all the other teams from the other countries. It’ll be different than playing in Mexico last year. The teams we played against were from other countries, but really from the same area. This time, we’ll be seeing teams from other countries that I’ve never heard of, so it’ll be really different. It just hasn’t hit me yet.
Being the only player on the team with international experience, have the other girls looked to you for advice, or have they been handling it pretty well?
They’re handling it pretty well. Once we get there, they might. But I think they’re good for now.
Did playing on the U16 team in Mexico City prepare you for this experience at all?
A little bit, for playing against different countries. But this is different because this 3-on-3 with countries that are from all over the world, not just North and South America.
What kind of feeling did you have when you learned that you made the Youth Olympic Games team instead of the U17 World Championship team, with a bunch of girls you played with last year?
In the beginning, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but I didn’t really know much about (the Youth Olympic Games). After learning about this and how big it’s going to be, I’m excited for it, especially since this is first one ever. That’ll make it much better and more fun, I think.
Your dad, Greg Stokes, played internationally. Does he give you any guidance or advice at all?
Yeah, sometimes. He knows about it and helps me out, and if I have questions, he’ll be there to help me answer them.
What’s difficult about the 3-on-3 format, and what do you think will be your strength?
Well, 3-on-3 is a lot different than 5-on-5. It makes every weakness you have magnified because there are fewer people on team. I’m just going to do whatever coach tells me to do, and that’s what I’ll excel at, doing whatever she needs.
Do you try to pattern your game after anyone?
Mostly just from my dad and what he tells me. … I just decide to go with what he says, and I just turn it into my own style.
How is the 3-on-3 game going to affect how you play the post?
It’ll be more like playing every position. If me and Amber (Henson) are in, we’ll have to split the post, figure out who’s high and who’s low and stuff. It’ll be kind of just playing wherever you are. It’s kind of hard to explain, I guess.
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
I think just being around Singapore – a new country, a new place – it’ll be really fun and different. So I’m looking forward to it.