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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Only 3 from U-16 squad make the cut for U-17 team

UConn Class of 2018 recruiting target Charli Collier is one of 18
finalists for U-17 national team (photo courtesy of USA Basketball)
One of the most pressing questions surrounding the U-17 trials was how many members from the bronze-medal winning U-16 squad would make the cut.

Well, many of the answers came this morning as the fourth cut was made to get down to 18 candidates and Alexis Morris (the leading scorer on the U-16 squad) and UConn Class of 2018 recruiting targets Aquira DeCosta and Sedona Prince were among the final 18.

"Ever since we lost, it has always been a motivation for us to win gold coming back this year," DeCosta said. "All of us are hungry to win gold."

This is the fourth U-17 team. In 2010 eight of the 12 players on the 2009 U16 made the squad, two years later six of the 12 players on the U17 team played in the FIBA Americas U16 event in '11. More recently, seven members of the U16 team in 2013 were members of the U17 squad in 2014.

UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter, one of three double-digit scorers on the U-16 team which lost to Brazil in the semifinals in the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women, was among those cut as the roster was trimmed from 41 to 18. There are still six more cuts that need to be made.

Since 1997 United States teams competed in 22 age-group 5 on 5 FIBA or FIBA Americas event and won the gold medals 20 times.

Back in 2001 the U.S. team coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma and featuring current WNBA stars Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, Alana Beard and Monique Currie suffered a loss to host Czech Republic in the 2001 FIBA U19 event en route to earning a bronze medal. That script was revisited last June when the U.S., after winning its first three games by an average of 39.3 points, lost to Brazil in the semifinals. The U.S. needed to beat host Mexico to avoid becoming the first United States squad to failing to medal in an age-group event since the U-19 team finished seventh in 1993.
DeCosta, Prince and fellow UConn Class of 2018 recruiting targets Charli Collier and Christyn Williams are among the final 18 as is Samantha Brunelle, a Class of 2019 prospect drawing interest from UConn.

"I think this was the most competitive trials we have ever had," USA Basketball National Team Director Carol Callan said in a statement. "As they emerged through the weekend, these 18 played really, really well. They provide a lot of the pieces to the puzzle of putting a roster together. It's not only at each position, but within each position, versatility, different style of play and stature. There are rebounders, there are shooters, there are defenders and there are really good players at each position."

The 18 finalists who will remain in Colorado Springs through Thursday when the 12-member squad will be announced. Here are the rest of those in contention to make the team.

Janelle Bailey, Rellah Boothe, Aliyah Boston, Jenna Brown, Maya Dodson, Destanni Henderson, Nazahrah Hillman, Taylor Mikesell, Morris, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Abigail Prohaska, Madison Williams, Zoe Young.

Eleven of the 18 finalists are from the Class of 2018 while Brunelle is one of three Class of 2019 prospects to make the cut joining Zoe Young and Aliyah Boston, a Worcester Academy star who is the only New England prospect to make the list of 18 finalists.

Boston and Janai Crooms, a 2018 prospect from Rhode Island, were the only New England players among 139 to try out for the U17 team.

Texas has four of the 18 finalists followed by Georgia and Ohio with three each while Florida is the only other state with more than one finalist.

Among the Texas players not to make the cut is Jade Williams, who drew some recruiting interest from UConn. When the Huskies were down in Texas to face SMU in January (the same trip when I saw Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey at one of Lexi Gordon's games) and didn't make it to see Williams play I kind of figured she wasn't in the Huskies' plans moving forward. Williams confirmed that.

"They were looking at me heavily but I think they recruited some people so their interest fell off," Williams said. "It is not really UConn anymore."

The U-18 team will be announced tonight around 8:30 p.m. There are currently 31 players fighting it out for 12 spots (counting Kasiyahna Kushkituah, who tried out for the U-17s and was added to the players trying to make the U-18 team) including UConn incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield and Class of 2017 recruiting target Megan Walker.

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