Oregon center excited to don USA jersey after suffering leg injury at 2018 FIBA Championship.
And then there were … 13. After four days of trials featuring 20 athletes, 13 finalists for the 2021 USA Basketball Women’s AmeriCup team were unveiled Wednesday. Only one of them won’t make the cut for the final 12-member roster, which will be named in June.
The finalists will return for a training camp that will begin June 1, with the tournament set for June 11-19 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ten countries from North, South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, will compete in the AmeriCup.
From there, the top four finishing teams will advance to compete in one of four 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournaments.
Team USA has three gold medals in five AmeriCup appearances, including golds in its two most recent ones (2007 and 2019).
For these 13 finalists, the action didn’t stop after the NCAA Tournament. Many arrived at the trials within weeks after their college season ended.
Jennifer Rizzotti, chair of the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee and president of the Connecticut Sun, said it’s one of the most competitive trials she’s ever experienced, and that picking out the best of the best was no easy task.
"“I’m just so impressed with the level of play of these 20 female athletes … I’m also really impressed with their attitude, and their receptiveness and their willingness to want to get better over a four-day span,” Rizzotti said. “We really appreciate the level of effort, professionalism and competitiveness this group shows. At the end of the day, we feel really good about the group we’ve put together to be the finalists.”"
Rizzotti said the committee feels it’s assembled the best group of players for head coach Dawn Staley to take to Puerto Rico and bring home a gold medal. And of those 13 finalists, eight have already won medals of their own in a USA jersey:
- Aliyah Boston (four golds)
- Naz Hillmon, Rhyne Howard and Diamond Miller (two golds each)
- Haley Jones, Sedona Prince and NaLyssa Smith (one gold each)
“This is not an easy thing to do, to have two-a-days for four-straight days,” Staley said of the finalists. “It’s safe to say that we got some of the very best college players that we had available to us, and we’re looking forward to training camp and also looking forward to competing at the AmeriCup.”
Repping the Pac-12
After an impressive college season, the Pac-12 is showing up and balling out at the trials — represented by Haley Jones (Stanford), Sedona Prince (Oregon), and assistant coach Adia Barnes (Arizona). Both USA Basketball veterans, Jones and Prince have combined to win four medals in international competition.
Jones’ sophomore season at Stanford ended with the team’s third national championship in program history after a 54-53 victory over the Arizona Wildcats. It was the first title game to feature two Pac-12 teams.
She poured in 17 points in that final game, and earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors thanks to her on-court performance and calm leadership. She averaged 13.2 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds this season.
Jones has not only been on the world stage before, she’s thrived on it, winning gold at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup.
Prince is coming off her first active season as a collegian after missing 2018-19 due to injury and then sitting out 2019-20 because of NCAA transfer rules. But she was big for the Ducks this year, helping lead Oregon to its fourth consecutive Sweet Sixteen while also being a voice for equal treatment in women’s basketball.
Prince averaged 10.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in 2020-21 and matched a career-high with 22 points in the Ducks’ second-round win over Georgia.
In her last appearance for USA Basketball, Prince went down with a scary leg injury, but now she’s ready to don the red, white and blue once again.
Barnes’ fifth season at the helm in Arizona was one to remember. She guided the Wildcats to their most successful season in program history and became the fourth coach to lead their alma mater to the title game.
Arizona was hot this year, boasting its third consecutive 20-win season (13 Pac-12 wins), and they proved they were the real deal in the NCAA Tournament despite the non-believers and being snubbed from the Final Four hype video.
Barnes, a WBCA Coach of the Year finalist and Naismith Coach of the Year semifinalist, has quickly proven herself to be a top coach and is excited to team up with Staley.
“I am incredibly honored to represent the United States and assist coach Dawn Staley and USA Basketball for the 2021 AmeriCup,” Barnes said. “This has been a basketball dream of mine and I can’t wait to represent my country. The opportunity to work alongside coach Staley and coach Rizzotti and the most talented basketball players in the world is an honor.”
Full finalists roster
- Grace Berger, Indiana
- Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
- Jakia Brown-Turner, NC State
- Veronica Burton, Northwestern
- Elissa Cunane, NC State
- Destanni Henderson, South Carolina
- Naz Hillmon, Michigan
- Rhyne Howard, Kentucky
- Haley Jones, Stanford
- Diamond Miller, Maryland
- Ashley Owusu, Maryland
- Sedona Prince, Oregon
- NaLyssa Smith, Baylor
Head coach: Dawn Staley, South Carolina
Assistant coaches: Adia Barnes, Arizona and Jennifer Rizzotti