Cierra Burdick (left) and Ariel Massengale join Meighan Simmons as finalists for the U19 USA roster.
May 25, 2011
By Zach Stipe and Debby Jennings
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - After four days of intense try-outs at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC), all five players representing the Tennessee Lady Vols made the cut at the USA Basketball Team Trials on Wednesday.
Incoming freshmen Cierra Burdick and Ariel Massengale joined rising sophomore Meighan Simmons as U19 team finalists, while rising seniors Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen were tabbed for the 14 World University Games roster spots, USA Basketball announced.
"I'm proud of all five players," said UT head coach Pat Summitt. "It's truly remarkable to have five players with the opportunity to represent the University of Tennessee and USA Basketball in such prestigious competitions. I know it will be a great experience and will give each player a better understanding of what it takes to play and win at such a competitive level."
Both squads were selected by the USA Basketball Junior National Team Committee, chaired by Sue Donohoe, NCAA vice president for Division I women's basketball.
"I've done this since 2004 and it was probably as challenging for us as any year that we've been here," Donohoe said. "Because there were so many talented players here, there were so many players who have had previous USA Basketball experience, those decisions were really hard. We were making changes as late as late last night. At a point we just said that we felt good about what we had. We put together two teams that we believe can be very successful, but it was a challenge."
Joining Burdick, Massengale and Simmons as finalists for the U19 World Championship Team are: Jordan Adams (Mater Dei H.S. / Irvine, Calif.); Diamond DeShields (Norcross H.S. / Norcross, Ga.); Stefanie Dolson (Connecticut / Port Jervis, N.Y.); Bria Hartley (Connecticut / North Babylon, N.Y.); Mo Jefferson (Texas Home Educators Sports Association / Glenn Heights, Texas); Alexis Jones (Irving MacArthur H.S. / Irving, Texas); Betnijah Laney (Smyrna H.S. / Clayton, Del.); Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Mater Dei H.S. / Anaheim, Calif.); Imani Stafford (Winward H.S. / Los Angeles, Calif.); Breanna Stewart (Cicero-North Syracuse H.S. / North Syracuse, N.Y.); Morgan Tuck (Bolingbrook H.S. / Bolingbrook, Ill.); and Elizabeth Williams (Princess Anne H.S. / Virginia Beach, Va.).
"It's a great opportunity," Massengale said. "It's an honor and I'm thankful to be here. This has always been a dream of mine. To come around, especially at such a young age, I feel like is a blessing. I know a lot of girls would like to be in this position. I just thank God that I made it."
The USA U19 team finalists will reconvene on June 1 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as part of the ESPN RISE Girls Showcase. The USA will train for four days before facing the Brazil U19 National Team on June 5 (12:30 p.m. EDT). The game will be televised on ESPNU and also shown online at ESPN3.com. Following the USA's game against Brazil, the final 12-member team will be announced.
Following the USA's June 1-5 training camp, the 12-member squad will reassemble July 11-15 for training at the USOTC, before the team travels to Chile for its final preparations.
Johnson and Stricklen were two of 14 players selected as finalists for the World University Games team among a pool of 35 of the nation's top collegians.
"It feels good," Stricklen said. "Getting an opportunity to play for another gold medal is really special. We still have two people who are going to get cut, and I hope I'm not one of them. I just wish the best for the team."
Also still in the hunt for one of the final 12 spots on the 2011 USA World University Games Team are: Elena Delle Donne (Delaware/Wilmington, Del.); Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame/South Bend, Ind.); Jacki Gemelos(USC/Stockton, Calif.); Keisha Hampton (DePaul/Philadelphia, Pa.); Shenise Johnson (Miami/Henrietta, N.Y.); Lynetta Kizer (Maryland/Woodbridge, Va.); Natalie Novosel (Notre Dame/Lexington, Ky.); Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford/Cypress, Texas); Nnemkadi Ogwumike(Stanford/Cypress, Texas); Devereaux Peters (Notre Dame/Chicago, Ill.); Odyssey Sims (Baylor/Irving, Texas); and April Sykes (Rutgers/Starkville, Miss.).
Athletes will return home today, May 25, and USA team training will resume at the USOTC July 31-Aug. 8, prior to the team's departure for Shenzhen, China, and the 2011 World University Games.
With three Lady Vols playing together on the U19 team and a pair of seniors further gaining court time together as teammates on the World University Games roster, Simmons expects an even more cohesive Tennessee Lady Vol unit in 2011-12.
"I think that's really going to help us next season," Simmons said. "We're going to have so much experience being able to play together at one time. I think we're going to go pretty far this year."