May 24, 2006
BERKELEY, Calif. - Cal head coach Joanne Boyle will serve as one of two assistant coaches for the 2006 USA FIBA Americas U20 Championship team. Boyle directed Cal to an 18-12 record and a first-round NCAA Tournament appearance during her inaugural 2005-06 season in Berkeley, marking the Bears' first winning record and postseason bid since 1992-93. She recently returned from a U20 selection camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., and sat down with CalBears.com to discuss the experience.
CalBears.com: How did you get selected to be an assistant coach for the USA U20 national team?
"I don't know what the process was, but Carol Callan (USA Basketball's assistant director of women's programs) called me to see if I'd be interested in being an assistant for the 20-and-under team. Gail Goestenkors (Duke's head coach) has been involved with USA Basketball quite a bit. I'm sure they ask her opinion on people that are out there. Hopefully, the fact that we did well here and at Richmond put my name out there a little bit."
CalBears.com: What was your response when you were asked?
"Yes. It was a no brainer. As a coach, it's one of the highest honors of your profession to be asked to coach in USA Basketball. It's really the future of women's basketball at the next level. They talked about it up there (in Colorado Springs, Colo.). It's about trying to find the next Olympians and create the best forum for our young women to play in international competition. To be a part of that is a great honor."
CalBears.com: Have you always envisioned USA Basketball as part of your professional aspirations?
"Gail (Goestenkors) went through that. I'd see her leave over the summer to go coach the youth festival teams. It's moved on to the 18-and-under, 19-and-under and 20-and-under national teams. It's a way to add to your resume and be a part of something on an international level than on a domestic level and be able to coach the highest level of athletes that are out there."
CalBears.com: What were some of the highlights for you at last weekend's USA U20 Trials?
"Getting to work with athletes at that level...there were 36 of them out there. They were probably some of the best young women at that age group. To have them all in one forum for three or four days to see how they would compete against each other, that was really interesting. To see our (Cal) kids compete at that level and see how they did was exciting.
"And, to be around great basketball minds like Joanne McCallie (Michigan State's head coach and head coach of the USA U20 national team) and Sam Dixon (Furman head coach and assistant coach of USA U20 national team)...we had some great floor coaches and to meet Carol Callan. The committee was there with a lot of great coaches like Tara (VanDerveer, Stanford head coach), Sherri Coale (Oklahoma head coach), Jim Foster (Ohio State head coach), Carla McGhee (Auburn assistant coach and Olympic gold medallist), Beth Morgan-Cunningham (VCU head coach).
"A lot of the kids and even coaches went in thinking, it's a 20-and-under national team. What does that mean? When Carla McGhee and Beth Morgan-Cunningham stood up and talked about their experiences with USA Basketball, and Carol Callan spoke about what it means to be in USA Basketball and when Tara spoke about what it is to be an Olympian and this is how the forum is set to pick those Olympians, I think it really brought to light that this isn't just about playing for a 20-and-under national team. This is about getting into a system that can ultimately get me to the next level, whether that means being an Olympian or being on the World team. I think the kids really understood that after the people spoke to them. Beth and Carla spoke of their experiences, and the kids played a lot harder and were much more focused when they understood that there was a bigger element to it than just being here at the Trials."
CalBears.com: How did Cal's Alexis Gray-Lawson, Devanei Hampton, Ashley Walker and Jené Morris perform at the trials?
"I think they all did great. The committee was great. They're trying to put a team together and what does that mean. Does that mean they take the 12 best players or do they really try to figure out what it is to take a team with great chemistry? That's what they considered as they went along. They were looking for X factors kids. They were looking for dominant kids and for good chemistry kids. I think personally they did a great job of picking the team, and I'm not saying that because of my three kids. I'm thinking about the 36 kids overall. They picked different elements. I think coming in to the entire camp all the players were a little nervous. They played, and they were watching each other to see what they were going to do. After the speeches by Carla, Tara and Beth, they understood that you have two more days to get it together and play your hearts out and raise the level of competition. After about the first day and a half, the play took off and went to another gear.
"Our kids (Cal) in particular realized I just have to go out and play my game and stop thinking about what's my role, what am I supposed to be doing here. The entire camp really picked up, and I think that's where some of our kids really shined. On the last day, Devanei dominated the camp. She was one of the best players there, if not the best player there. The day before Ashley had an unbelievable day. Those two, in particular, made the team at those particular points. Both of those guys played well throughout, but on certain days, they really stood out. Lexi tried to be the consummate point guard and did what they asked of her. She did well in that respect, but I told her she needs to play her game a little bit in the last tryout. She wasn't looking to score as much. She was looking to be the point guard that passed and played defense. That was great, but she also has to show that she can be a scoring point guard or a scoring two. That's where her growth needs to happen in that next camp. They like her size. Jené came out strong in the beginning. Her speed, her quickness and her defense made her stand out. On the first two days, she was the best at all three of those things. Then, she settled in to her game. She was in the mix the whole time. They were looking at her as more of an X factor kids. She'll play great defense. As the camp went on, some other kids stood out, and they took other X factor kids for whatever reason. She had a good camp."
CalBears.com: How gratifying was it for you to hear three Cal players names announced?
"Yes, it was. They did it in alphabetical order. Lexi's name was first. After they said her name, I couldn't think. I was trying to pay attention, but I thought, `Oh, my god. She made it.' I never thought three of them would make it out of 36 there. After Lexi's name was picked, I thought Dev's got to definitely be in there, and Ash should be in there. I think the committee did a great job of picking the team. We have a lot of work cut out for us if all three of them are going to make it."
CalBears.com: How will all four of the Cal freshmen benefit from their experience with USA Basketball?
"They still have to make the team. The camp itself was great because they got to compete against the best players. There was so much talk about leadership and bringing it every day. It's the same things I tell my team. Hopefully, it reinforces what we're asking them here. To play at that level and to know that you're amongst the best and that you can play at that level will help them. None of our kids were out of sorts. Everyone kept saying, `I can't believe these are all your freshmen. How good are you guys going to be?'
"Hopefully, it gives them a lot of confidence. There's a responsibility when they come back this summer and work out. There's a responsibility to elevate your game on a day-to-day basis and to not go through the rollercoaster like we did this year. It's a great honor to be out there trying out. For those that got picked, that's awesome. For those that didn't, make that motivate you. For the three Cal kids that made it, their motivation is to get ready for the July camp because nothing is given. For Jené, she needs to come back and work on her outside shooting and her mid-range game. That's the part that's missing from her game."