May 21, 2006
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Following three days of trials that saw 38 athletes under consideration for finalist spots, USA Basketball announced that 18 of the nation's top 20-and-unders (born on or after Jan. 1, 1986) have been named as finalists for the 2006 USA FIBA Americas U20 Championship Team.
Cal freshmen Alexis Gray-Lawson (G, Oakland, Calif.), Devanei Hampton (C, Oakland, Calif.) and Ashley Walker (F, Modesto, Calif.) were among the players selected as finalists, while freshman guard Jene Morris (G, San Francisco, Calif.) gained valuable experience attending the trials. Golden Bear head coach Joanne Boyle will serve as an assistant coach for the 2006 USA FIBA Americas U20 Championship Team. Cal led all universities with four participants at the trials and with three finalists.
Listed among the finalists are four athletes who helped lead the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2005 FIBA U19 World Championship, including All-Americans Erlana Larkins (North Carolina / Riviera Beach, Fla.) and Courtney Paris (Oklahoma / Piedmont, Calif.), as well as Jolene Anderson (Wisconsin / Port Wing, Wis.) and Essence Carson (Rutgers / Paterson, N.J.). The finalists were selected by the USA Basketball Women's Collegiate Committee, which is chaired by Sue Donohoe, the NCAA's vice president of Division I women's basketball.
"We've got some terrific opportunities in the post, and we always want to use our post players effectively," said USA U20 National Team and Michigan State University head coach Joanne P. McCallie, who will also be assisted by Furman's Sam Dixon. "We've got some creative players, and I think we've got a team with good chemistry. I think that they are a nice group of women who aren't afraid to understand what the bigger picture is. And so I feel the 'we' component more than the 'me' component. That's always good."
The other finalists athletes include DeWanna Bonner (Auburn / Fairfield, Ala.); Carson; Jillian Harmon (Stanford / Lake Oswego, Ore.); Larkins; Camille LeNoir (Southern California / Los Angeles, Calif.); Victoria Lucas-Perry (Michigan State / Flint, Mich.); Renee Montgomery (Connecticut / St. Albans, W.Va.); Marscilla Packer (Ohio State / Pickerington, Ohio); Ashley Paris (Oklahoma / Piedmont, Calif.); Kia Vaughn (Rutgers / Bronx, N.Y.); Erica White (Louisiana State / Jacksonville, Fla.); Khadijah Whittington (North Carolina State / Roanoke, Va.) and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton (Purdue / Naperville, Ill.).
Sixteen of the 18 athletes under consideration for a final roster spot have previous USA Basketball experience. In addition to the 2005 FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal, Anderson, Carson, Larkins and Courtney Paris also helped the American women to the gold medal at the 2005 International Sports Invitational against top junior national teams from Australia, Russia and China. The previous summer Carson, Larkins and Courtney Paris were members of the USA U18 National Team that earned the United States' berth in the U19 Worlds after claiming the 2004 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. Additionally, Carson, Gray-Lawson, Hampton, Harmon, Lucas-Perry, Montgomery, Packer, Ashley Paris, Courtney Paris, Vaughn, White, Whittington and Wisdom-Hylton have all competed in a USA Basketball Youth Development Festival; while LeNoir attended the 2005 USA Junior National Team Trials.
The 18 finalists will reconvene in late July for training camp at a site to be determined to begin preparations as they look to defend the United States' title at the 2006 FIBA Americas U20 Championship. The final 12-member USA U20 National Team will be announced prior to departing for the FIBA Americas U20 Championship, scheduled to be held Aug. 9-13 in Mexico City, Mexico. Featuring eight teams from North, South and Central Americas and the Caribbean, the top three finishing teams qualify for the 2007 FIBA U21 Women's World Championship that will be held July 27-Aug. 5 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
The eight participating teams will be divided into two preliminary rounds groups of four teams each. After playing each of the three other teams in its preliminary round group between Aug. 9-11, the top two finishing teams from each preliminary round group will advance to play in the Aug. 12 medal round semifinals, while the third and fourth place finishing teams in preliminary round play will meet in the consolation round semifinals that day. The gold medal, bronze medal, 5th/6th place and 7th/8th place games will be played on Aug. 13.
Originally known as the FIBA Americas World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Tournament, the event was first held four years ago in 2002 as the U.S. earned the gold medal to qualify for the 2003 FIBA World Championship For Young Women. FIBA recently made the name change to reflect the age of eligible athletes (U20 for the qualifier and U21 for the World Championship). The USA not only captured the gold at the inaugural event in 2002, held in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil, it swept all four games and outscored the competition a whopping 102.8 points per game to 52.5 ppg. Brazil finished with the silver and Argentina claimed the bronze as all three teams qualified for the 2003 U21 Worlds.