U.S. picks U17 worlds team
USA Basketball will go with something borrowed, bringing back the likes of Rebecca Greenwell of Owensboro, Ky., the co-MVP from the Americas qualifying tournament, and something new, changing out half of last year's gold-medal winning team, in its effort to repeat at the FIBA U17 World Championship this summer.
Diamond DeShields of Norcross, Ga., who will be playing on her third U.S. national team, is among the six "newcomers" that USA Basketball named to the U17 team Sunday morning. DeShields has won gold medals with two older U.S. teams -- the U19 world championship team in 2011 and the U18 Americas championship team in 2010 -- but this will be her first run in her own age group.
The 12-player squad will compete at the 2012 FIBA U17 world championship on Aug. 17-26 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The U.S. won the inaugural U17 World Championship during the summer of 2010 in France.
DeShields and Greenwell, as well as returnees Mercedes Russell of Springfield, Ore., ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as the No. 1 prospect in the 2013 class; Linnae Harper of Chicago, who led the U16 team in assists and steals last summer in Mexico; Kaela Davis of Suwanee, Ga., the No. 2 prospect in 2013, and Taya Reimer of Fishers, Ind., the No. 4 prospect, seemed locks for the U17 team throughout the trials, which started Thursday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
A sixth returnee from last summer's squad, Erica McCall of Bakersfield, Calif., a 6-foot-3 forward, also impressed from the beginning of the trials with her ability to run the floor and scrap inside.
The athletic, ultra-competitive and versatile foursome of Davis, DeShields, Greenwell and Harper, especially, put the U.S. in good hands on the perimeter. The 6-5 Russell, who averaged 11.6 points and a team-leading 11.4 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in Mexico, gives USA Basketball a formidable post presence. And Reimer, who is committed to Notre Dame, provides power and versatility from the forward position; plus she and Russell are the most polished inside scorers on the U17 team.
The remainder of the inside positions, where the U.S. traditionally likes to load up, and the point-guard slots took longer to sort out.
Though considered more of a guard prospect for college, Harper handled much of the playmaking duties for USA during the Americas qualifying tournament and likely will reprise that role this summer. Jessica Washington of Tulsa, Okla., more of a classic lead guard, and Lindsay Allen of Bowie, Md., a combo guard who makes things happen at both ends of the floor with her speed and energy, emerged early in the trials and made enough of an impression to be named to the final squad. Both will be making their first appearances for the U.S.
Inside, 6-3 Brianna Turner of Pearland, Texas, the No. 2 prospect in the 2014 class, impressed throughout the trials with her shot-blocking and rebounding. Oderah Chidom, a 6-3 forward from Oakland, Calif., came on strong during the last day of trials on Saturday to make the team. And the 6-4 Kai James of West Palm Beach, Fla., provides a massive presence in the lane.
Six players who participated in the U17 trials -- Kendall Cooper of Carson, Calif.; LaJahna Drummer of Inglewood, Calif.; Allisha Gray of Sandersville, Ga.; Stephanie Mavunga of Indianapolis, Ind.; Jannah Tucker of Randallstown, Md., and Jatarie White of Charlotte, N.C. -- were selected to stay and compete at the U18 trials, which end Monday. Mavunga, Tucker and White were members of last summer's U16 team.
Though she was the U.S. team's top performer last summer, Greenwell's return to the national team actually is a triumph. During the U16 Americas tournament, she broke or tied U.S. records with points averaged (15.6), field goals attempted (tied, 29), field goals made (62) and 3-pointers made (11) and attempted (tied, 24). However, Greenwell suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear in her right knee while competing for the U.S. at the inaugural FIBA 3x3 world championships later last summer in Italy.
The ACL injury wiped out Greenwell's junior season at Owensboro (Ky.) Catholic, but she rebounded strongly, taking MVP honors at the Boo Williams Invitational tournament during the NCAA-certified spring evaluation weekend in April, then showing no after-effects during last week's USA trials.