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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Five Huskies named to U.S. teams

                                                                    (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)
UConn rising sophomore Breanna Stewart (left) and Class of 2014
recruiting target A'ja Wilson were named to U-19 national team.
UConn will be well represented on the U.S. World University Games and FIBA U-19 World Championship squads.

All-Americans Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Bria Hartley were among the 12 players selected to play for the U.S. in the World University Games while the trio of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were named to the U-19 squad after a three-day training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target A'ja Wilson was also named to the U-19 squad.

This is the fourth straight year that Hartley will represent the U.S. in an international competition as she was a member of the U-18 squad in 2010, U-19 team in 2011 and last summer played for the U.S. in the FIBA 3x3 World Cup while Mosqueda-Lewis was a member of U.S. junior national teams from 2009-11.

Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck were teammates on the U.S. team which won the 2012 FIBA Americas U-18 championship. Jefferson started all five games and averaged 5.6 points, 4.2 assists and 1.6 steals while Tuck and Stewart were the top two scorers on the U.S. team. Stewart has played on five different U.S. squads since 2009 including the 2011 U-19 team while Tuck was the leading overall scorer in the U-18 tournament in 2012 at 17.8 points per game.

The World University Games will be held in Kazan, Russia from July 6-17 while Lithuania will host the U-19 World Championships from July 18-28.

Here are quotes from the four players with UConn ties on the U-19 roster courtesy of the folks at USA Basketball.

How did you feel when you heard your name called for making the USA U19 Team?
Coming out here, you’re playing with a bunch of great people and everybody is doing their best and going their hardest and you never really know until the last second when they call your name.

You’re on the U19 team that includes the coaches and five players from last year’s U18 team, how is that going to be helpful this year?
It will help a lot because we already know what coach (USA U19 head coach Kate Meier) expects and we know a lot of the plays, so we can help the younger guys, and the people that just came in we can show what it is like to be on this team.

What is your role going to be on this team, what can you bring to this year’s team?
Leadership, point guard experience and trying to get everybody into their position. And also defense, that’s one of the main things I take pride in, so I can come out and try to push the tempo a little bit with my defense.

What is it that brings you back to USA Basketball each summer?
I just love it. You come out here and get a lot of great experience, you get in shape with the altitude, you meet a lot of great people and that’s just the basketball part of it and you want to represent your country, but outside of that you meet a lot of great people and have a great time while you’re here.

This is your sixth USA Basketball team, what keeps you motivated to keep coming back?
USA Basketball is the best thing about my summer. That’s what I look forward to, creating new experiences with new people. Sometimes they’re with the same people, but it’s just really fun. And I enjoy going for the gold medal.

At the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship you were one of the youngest players on the team. How will your role change with this team?
It’s funny how my role is changing, because this is my second U19 team. Last time I was one of the younger ones. This time I’m one of the older ones, and it’s weird. But, I have to be a leader because I’ve been in these situations before and some people haven’t. I have to help show them the ropes.

What does it mean for you to represent your country in this manner?
It’s an honor. I appreciate everything USA Basketball has done for me in letting me keep coming back to try out again and again, and continuing to go for gold medals. I don’t think there’s anything else you can ask for.

What can you teach some of the younger players about USA Basketball, both on and off the court?
USA Basketball on the court, obviously you’re going to go out, you’re going to play your heart out, you’re going to leave everything on the court because this is 12 people who are considered at the top of high school and college basketball for their age group. Teams are coming after us, and they want to beat us. We have to know that every team’s going to play us the best they can, and we need to just keep our composure.

Off the court, you really have to represent the United States and show people in other countries who we are, create our own image of ourselves. We need to try to change their minds about the United States in a positive way.

How does it feel to be returning to USA Basketball for another chance at a gold medal?
It feels really great. Every time just gets better and better. We have a different group. We have a couple I’ve played with before with USA Basketball, but I think it’s more exciting because we have a lot of new people on this team.

At the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship you were one of the youngest players on the team. How will your role change with this team?
Definitely being more of a leader. When I was on the team the last time I just tried to fit in and try to make my mark. Now I need to take more of a leadership role and try to make sure that the younger players who haven’t been here before understand the international game and they feel comfortable with it.

What can you contribute to this team?
I think I can help with the low post presence. We are a really big team and I’m the smallest post, but I feel that I can use my physicalness around the basket. I think I can be a good leader out on the court.

You already have three gold medals in international competition. Can you describe the feeling of winning a gold medal and why it keeps you coming back for more?
It’s a great feeling. It makes you feel like you’re the best in the world. When I get up there, I think of the pictures of the Olympic team when they’re on the podium, and that’s my dream one day. I feel like I’m slowly getting closer. I just love coming back. You get to play with the best players in the country. You play with people at school and your same team, but to come out in the summer, get together, practice a little bit and then go play, it’s a great feeling.

What kind of emotions were you feeling when you heard your name called as one of the USA U19 World Championship Team members?
Oh my gosh! It was a great feeling. At first I was shocked, to tell the truth because this weekend I felt that I had the roughest time. I did not feel that I played really well. But, when my name was called and my named being Wilson, it was the last name. I was just like, ‘uh oh.’ And then finally she said A’ja Wilson, and I was like, ‘oh my gosh, this is such an honor.’ I’m really excited.

What do you think stood out to the committee this weekend, what do you bring to the team?
I guess, me being so young, I kind of bring the energy sometimes. I’m not saying that everybody else is old, but I guess I can bring the energy. We have height, of course, and then we also have versatility. I think I also bring those things to the team, and being a good teammate.

What does it mean for you to be able to represent your country?
It means a lot. It really does. I’ve watched these girls on TV. I’ve gone to some of their games, and just to play with them, it means a lot. Playing the sport that I love and playing for the country that I love, it’s just a great feeling to have.

Are you excited about learning from the coaching staff and the rest of your teammates?
Definitely I am. I’m very excited.

Now here are some quotes from Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis after they were named to the WUG team.

Did you think you had played well at trials?
                                  (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)
UConn teammates Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-
Lewis were among 12 players named to U.S. team playing
in World University Games.
I thought I played OK. I didn't think I played my best basketball ever. I'm just really happy that the committee picked me. I'm really excited that I was good enough to make the team.

Were you nervous this morning?
I was a little nervous. Even though I have made the team before, you don't want to come in here thinking, 'Oh, I'm definitely going to make the team.' You have to stay humble, but you also want to be confident, thinking you could possibly make the team. You have to come out and play basketball the way you know how to.

What do you think the committee saw in you?
I think it was versatility, because I am a combo-guard. I can play a little bit of the one and the two, and I can make sure all of my teammates are involved. Also, just talking and encouraging, that's the main thing I like to do.

Were you nervous this morning?
I was a little nervous because I definitely did not shoot very well during this whole try-out, and that's kind of my job. I tried to do a lot of other stuff, like rebounding, hustling hard on defense. Luckily it worked.

How does it feel to make your fourth USA Basketball Team?
It's still special; every time is special. Now it's really cool because I will be playing with girls that I have played against in college. A lot of them, Odyssey and Tricia and a lot of them I watched before I even got to college and said, 'They're really good.' Now I get to play with them, so it's really cool.

Joining Jefferson, Stewart, Tuck and Wilson on the U-19 are former UConn recruiting targets Linnae Harper (who signed with Kentucky) and Brianna Turner (one of three high school juniors to make the team) as well as Penn State's Candice Agee, Tennessee's Bashaara Graves, Duke's Alexis Jones, Northwestern signee Nia Coffey, Washington incoming freshman Kelsey Plum and St. Mary's High School guard Gabby Green. Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis are joined on the World University Games squad by Central Michigan's Crystal Bradford, Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg, ReShanda Gray of California, Southern California's Cassie Harberts, Nebraska's Jordan Hooper, Tricia Liston of Duke, Tennessee's Ariel Massengale (a high school teammate of Morgan Tuck's), LSU's Theresa Plaisance, Shoni Schimmel of Louisville and Baylor's Odyssey Sims.

The World University Games squad will return to the U.S. Olympic Training Center on June 25 for final preparations before embarking for Russia on July 1. The U-19 team will hold its training camp in Colorado Springs from July 1-9 before playing in a tournament with Australia, Canada and Spain in the Canary Islands from July 11-14.

The complete list of the players trying out for the U-16 national team will be coming out soon, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

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