COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- For San Antonio's Recee' Caldwell, last year's USA Basketball experience was a proud moment in her young basketball career. But it was also one that seemed surreal. So Caldwell has made the last 10 months about taking the next step.
"This has been my main focus since before my high school season started," said Caldwell, a 5-foot-8 point guard, of the 2012 USA Basketball U17 national team trials, taking place here this weekend.
Caldwell, who is ranked No. 7 in the 2014 ESPN HoopGurlz Terrific 25, shouldn't be disappointed in her play last year. She made the 12-player roster and helped the U16 national team win gold in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship.
But Caldwell not only wants to make the roster again, she wants to make an impact.
"Last year I was more of a distributor," Caldwell said. "I want to do everything I did last year but if I'm open I'll shoot the ball."
It seems a stark contrast to anyone who has seen Caldwell play for the San Antonio's Finest, a club team coached by her father, Ray. She is the Finest's most potent offensive weapon and scoring comes, even as teams key on her defensively, even without wide-open looks.
She traces her distributor roots back to before she moved to Texas. Caldwell lived and played in Southern California, teaming up with players like Jordin Canada and Lajahna Drummer who are now competing here with her at USA trials.
Caldwell also feels more confident and experienced this year.
"I've been here before so I know what to expect," Caldwell said.
In the early sessions of the U17 team trials, Caldwell has brought her high-energy, vocal leadership to the floor. She's defending hard and showing the command teams want from their floor general. She even take a few shots and while she's not the quickest among a terrific crop of point guards, she appears to be a little faster than she was last spring.
Caldwell sees her role clearly and is looking to develop the same balance of leadership, table setting and perimeter shooting that made Ariel Massengale, now at Tennessee, so successful in international competition. Massengale's genius in Rodez and Toulouse, France, in July 2010 – when the U.S. team went 8-0 in the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship -- came from picking her spots to shoot the ball.
"When teams start doubling Mercedes Russell and Rebecca Greenwell," Caldwell said, "I'll get open shots and I have to knock them down."
Caldwell is getting the chance to see what the last 10 months of work and preparation have done for her game, and whether she makes the roster or not, she is taking the next step in the progression of her game.
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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.