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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, May 21, 2012

U-18 coach talks about UConn's three incoming freshmen

Moriah Jefferson is one of three UConn incoming freshmen to make the
U.S. Under-18 national team.

I just got off the phone with Miami head coach Katie Meier, who is also the head coach of the U.S. team which will play in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in August.

UConn's incoming freshman Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were among the 12 players selected to the team so I asked Meier for her impressions on the three future Huskies.

"I thought Moriah Jefferson absolutely just killed herself during the trials. She did everything she could,
she dove on the floor, she pushed tempo, she talked to teammates, she settled people down, she did a
really nice job. I think she got feedback from her previous trials and took them to heart. I thought she
responded very well, she handled herself in a very mature way."

"Breanna Stewart was a great teammate during these trials. I don't think she felt pressure in terms of
making this team, she just made sure that people felt good about what they were doing and settled people
in. During the last few sessions when it was time to shine she was unbelievable. She was a very efficient
kid and has a great basketball IQ."

"I think Morgan Tuck, the same thing, I think she kind of waited her turn a little bit in the first couple
of sessions when people were excited and nervous, throwing the ball all over the gym. I thought Morgan
was just calm and when it came time at last night's session and this morning's session, you could see her
experience, her basketball savvy helped her a lot because every team that Morgan played on looked really
good because of the team work."

This is the fourth straight year that Stewart and Tuck were selected to U.S. junior national teams although a knee injury kept Tuck from competing with the U-16 squad in 2009. Meier said that previous experience wasn't hard to miss during the trials.

"You could even see that experience in a trials format," Meier said. "You could see those last sessions when they were just scrimmaging you could see those two kids just work, pick their spots within the offense and you could tell that they had obvious international experience."

Naturally I asked Meier, who shared 2010-11 national coach of the year honors with UConn's Geno Auriemma and Tara VanDerveer of Stanford, how the trio would impact the Huskies in the upcoming season.

"There's a reason, I am sure, that Geno was (raving) about them," Meier said. "They come in as three of the best kids in the country and you know exactly what that program is that they are off to. In the meantime they'll be on the U-18 team in the summer. I know UConn fans will be proud of them."

Below are quotes from Jefferson, Stewart, Tuck and Tucker courtesy of USA Basketball.

Moriah Jefferson (Texas Home Educators Sports Assocciation / Glenn Heights, Texas)
What was it like as you were waiting to hear your name called?
Honestly after being through it so many times, I kind of just blacked out. I didn’t even know they called my name until somebody hit my leg and I was like, ‘Thank God.’ I think making it is a big honor, so I’m happy.

After trying out for previous USA Basketball teams without making the final roster, how rewarding was it to be named to the 2012 USA U18 FIBA Americas Championship Team?It’s amazing because you don’t make it time after time after time, and you keep coming back. To finally make it, you have this big reward. I’m lost for words actually right now.

How excited are you to travel and spend the summer with this team?I’m extremely excited. We get to represent our country now, so it’s not about us, it’s about the team and about the USA.

What does it mean to you to be able to represent your country?It’s an honor. You see all these people that came to try out, and many more would have loved to be here, so just to get a chance to play on the team is amazing.

Breanna Stewart (Cicero-North Syracuse H.S. / North Syracuse, N.Y.)
Were you nervous before the team was announced?
I was a little nervous, but I was confident as well. I thought trials went well, and I definitely finished on a strong note. I’ve been through trials before, so I’m kind of used to the suspense.

What does it mean to wear a USA jersey with a fourth USA Basketball team?It definitely is special. It will always be special because you are representing your country. I am getting more comfortable with international basketball and the whole process, though, because I’ve been here so many times. I love it.

Playing for a USA Basketball team requires time and commitment, what keeps you coming back?You have to just keep working hard at getting better. Colorado Springs has the altitude, so you want to be in the best shape possible. And you’re not guaranteed a spot, you have to show the committee that you deserve a spot on the team.

Morgan Tuck (Bolingbrook H.S. / Bolingbrook, Ill.)
Were you nervous this morning before they announced the team?
I definitely was nervous. I know I’ve been here before, but still there are all these great players here competing. I was definitely nervous.

Did you feel like you had played well at trials?I think I did pretty well. There are always things that I wish I had done better, but overall it was a pretty good showing.

How does it feel to make a third USA Basketball team?I feel great. I love being able to represent the USA and to go out and compete against different countries and get to know the players that are on the team.

Jannah Tucker (New Town H.S. Randallstown, Md.)
Were you nervous this morning before they announced the team?
I was nervous a little but, but I kind of knew that last night’s session was more important than this morning’s session, just because that was my first session playing with the U18s and also, there was only like 30 minutes between the last session and the team announcement, so I figured they already had some sort of concept of what the team was going to be, so I knew that I had to play hard this session, but especially last night’s session.

What did it feel like when you heard your name?It was like a weight off of my shoulders, like I could just exhale. Especially since I didn’t hear my name for the U17 team, it was very relieving to hear it this time.

What does it mean to you to represent your country for a second time after playing on the 2011 USA Basketball Women’s U16 team?It’s really an honor to play for your country and compete for a gold medal.


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