Article/Image from USA Basketball website
|Olive Branch's Myah Taylor|
Commonly in sports, there is a team that considers itself the underdog, a group that brings excitement to the competition by helping to provide unpredictable outcomes.
The 2015 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team Trials are no exception, with 125 applicant athletes joining 34 players who were invited by the USA Basketball Women’s Developmental National Team Committee.
“I feel as though I am an underdog,” said 6-foot-1 forward Alexis Gordon (LD Bell H.S./Hurst, Texas). “The people that were invited here are really good, but I can play with them. I have to consistently show that.”
That is exactly the purpose of the open trials USA Basketball has conducted for U16 and U17 teams since 2011, to allow lesser-known players the chance to shine.
From 149 athletes to start trials on May 21 at the United States Olympic Training Center, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the roster as of Sunday morning stands at 70 players who are competing for a roster spot on the 12-member USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team. Thirty-six of the remaining 70 athletes came to the trials because they wanted compete among the some of the nation’s best, including Gordon, Myah Taylor (Olive Branch H.S./Olive Branch, Miss.), Brooke Moore (Henry County H.S./McDonough, Ga.) and Janelle Bailey (Providence Day School/Charlotte, N.C.).
“At first, since I was not invited, I felt as though I shouldn’t have come,” commented Gordon. “I felt that I was not good enough. After talking to my family and coaches, who said that I have what it takes, I believe that I have what it takes. I am putting everything on the floor.
“This morning I didn’t feel as though I played to the best ability, so when I saw it that I had made the cuts, I saw that I had another chance. I was going to take the opportunity to come back and show them why I belong here.”
Moore, unlike Gordon, did not personally go and check the list of players who were advancing, which was posted on the doors of Sports Center II. Instead, she asked someone else to look for her. Still, her reaction was the same.
“I didn’t even look at it,” said Moore, a 5-foot-5 guard. “I got my coach to look at it. After she looked at it, I asked her what it said. She asked me for my number, and then responded that I didn’t make the cut with a smile on her face. Then I knew she was joking. I had made it. I thought to myself I really have to work to make the next cuts.”
From here, the trials participants will see one more roster reduction on Sunday before the team is named on Monday morning.
“I want to show that I can run the floor and that I am a really good shooter,” Moore stated. “I have to get in rhythm. My rhythm comes from the team rhythm. If the team is in a rhythm, my shot will be, too.”
With everyone’s attention focused on the courts for scrimmages, other players echoed Moore’s sentiment.
Bailey said she is focused on displaying her versatility to the selection committee.
“I want to show more of me stepping out to shot the basketball, something I worked on before I got here,” commented the 6-foot-3 Bailey. “I don’t want to just stay in the block, but it comes with the offense. Everyone wants to score, but sometimes scoring does not work for you. Yesterday scoring did not work for me, unless I got it off the rebound. Yesterday was all about rebounds. Once I knew I was not able to score, I moved on the next thing. I would like to see myself shoot, but I will do whatever my team needs me to do.”
Though she has her mind set on showing her skills, Bailey said she also is enjoying the process, despite the fact that she may not make the team.
“I have enjoyed the journey so far. You do not worry about whether or not you are going to make it; you just enjoy the journey. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You can do it again, but these years don’t come back. You have to enjoy it while it lasts. Every day I enjoy the game, for that reason. “
For Taylor, as the numbers of players continues to be reduced, she is realizing this could be a dream come true for her.
“I have considered it,” Taylor said of making the team. “I have dreamed of it, but they are only taking 12. I have to go out there with my best to make that dream come true. Being from Mississippi, where it isn’t a basketball state, it is a dream come true. It is a great opportunity, even if I don’t make the team. I can say that I attended USA trials as not a lot of girls do.”