Kentucky women’s basketball signee Linnae Harper was one of 12 players selected to the 2013 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship Team, announced USA Basketball on Sunday. Harper was one of 33 athletes invited to tryouts for the team, which were held May 16-19 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The 12-member team was selected by the USA Basketball Junior National Team Committee, chaired by UT Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster.
Harper, a 5-foot-8 guard from Chicago and a former teammate of current Wildcat Janee Thompson at Whitney Young High School, is no stranger to USA Basketball. She won gold medals as a member of the 2012 USA U17 World Championship Team and the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship Team. She also was awarded an honorary bronze medal in the inaugural 2011 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship. She is one of eight members on the team who have won a gold medal playing with USA Basketball.
“Just being here the last day, everyone was anxious and ready to hear their name called,” Harper said. “Every year I’ve been here I’m always nervous, my stomach feels like it is dropping and spinning, lack of rest, then to hear my name called was a big relief. I was so excited. This is another opportunity to represent our country and be with another group of girls I’ve never played with, a mixture of college and high school, and I really can’t wait to spend a nice month with them.”
Harper and the rest of Team USA will compete at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship, hosted by Lithuania from July 18-28 in Klaipeda and Panevėžys. The red, white and blue has won the last four gold medals at the FIBA U19 World Championships.
“We were able to pick a U19 team that has a lot of strengths in a lot of different areas,” said Foster. “I think that bodes well for them. They have good size. They have some people who can put the ball in the basket. They’re athletic, and I think they can be good defensively. It’s a team that has a lot of potential to be very successful.
“The team has some players whose skill set is a little different than their position. Breanna Stewart, A’Ja Wilson and Brianna Turner are all 6’3” or above and are equally as comfortable putting the ball on the floor after they get a rebound and starting a fast break on their own. It’s an interesting dimension, and it makes the team that much more versatile because you could actually play some of them at wing positions and have a very, very big team on the floor. It makes for a lot of versatility.”
The 12-player team includes: Candice Agee (Penn State/Victorville, Calif.); Nia Coffey (Hopkins H.S./ Minneapolis, Minn.); Bashaara Graves (Tennessee/Clarksville, Tenn.); Gabby Green (St. Mary’s College H.S./Oakland, Calif.); Linnae Harper (Whitney Young H.S./Chicago, Ill.); Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut/Glenn Heights, Texas); Alexis Jones (Duke/Irving, Texas); Kelsey Plum (La Jolla Country Day/Poway, Calif.); Breanna Stewart (Connecticut/North Syracuse, N.Y.); Morgan Tuck (Connecticut/Bolingbrook, Ill.); Brianna Turner (Manvel H.S./Pearland, Texas); A’ja Wilson (Heathwood Hall H.S./Hopkins, S.C.).
University of Miami head coach Katie Meier will be leading Team USA and will be assisted by Nikki Caldwell (LSU) and Kelly Graves (Gonzaga).
“I’m thrilled. The length is incredible, the talent, the diversity,” Meier said. “Everybody brings a little something different. That gives us a lot of choices as coaches in a lot of different ways that we can win basketball games. (The committee) put together what I think is the team that answers any type of a question. We have speed. We have quickness. We have size. We have shooters. They really made sure that they gave us every weapon.”
The USA will regroup for training on July 1 at the USOTC prior to traveling to Europe for a July 11-14 Spain-hosted tournament in Lanzarote, Canary Islands. Featuring U19 squads from Australia, Canada and Spain, the tournament will be good test for the U.S. From there, the American women will travel to Lithuania in an attempt to defend gold.
The FIBA U19 Worlds will feature 16 teams with athletes 19-years-old or younger. While Lithuania earned an automatic berth to the tournament as host, the remaining 15 nations were determined by the five FIBA zone qualifiers in 2012. In addition to the U.S., nations qualified out of the FIBA Americas zone include Brazil (silver medalist), Argentina (bronze medalist) and Canada (fourth place). Senegal (gold medalist) and Mali (silver medalist) will represent FIBA Africa; advancing from FIBA Asia are China (gold medalist), Japan (silver medalist) and South Korea (bronze medalist); Australia took FIBA Oceania’s spot after winning the best-of-three series against New Zealand; while FIBA Europe will be represented by France (gold medalist), Russia (silver medalist), Serbia (bronze medalist), Netherlands (fourth place) and Spain (fifth place).
Drawn into Group D, the U.S. will play its preliminary and second round games in Panevėžys, and opens against Lithuania on July 18, followed by China on July 19 and caps the preliminary round against Mali on July 20.
The top three finishing teams from each first-round group will advance to the second round, held July 22-24. The 12 nations qualifying for the second round will be divided into Groups E and F. Each team will play the three new teams in its new group, with all results of games played in the preliminary round carrying over to determine the second-round standings.
Teams finishing in first through fourth places in the second round will qualify for the quarterfinals, with the opportunity to advance to the semifinals and finals. The medal round will be played in Klaipeda, with the quarterfinals held on July 26, semifinals slated for July 27 and the gold medal game on July 28.
In addition to Foster, the 2013-14 USA Basketball includes NCAA appointees Melanie Balcomb (head coach, Vanderbilt University), Lindsay Gottlieb (head coach, University of California) and Joi Williams (head coach, UCF), as well as athlete representative Kara Lawson, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist who has played on nine USA Basketball teams.