UConn’s national championship women’s basketball championship program placed all five players invited to compete for spots on two USA Basketball teams competing internationally forthis summer.
Breanna Stewart, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2013 Final Four, forward Morgan Tuck and guard Moriah Jefferson, all sophomores next season, made the 12-player FIBA U19 roster that will be coached by Miami’s Katie Meier.
And Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will play for the World University Games team coached by Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale.
The 2013 World University Games will be held July 8-15 in Kazan, Russia. The United States has won four straight gold medals in the U19 event, which will be held from July 18-28 in Lithuania.
Hartley, Mosqueda-Lewis, Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson were among 66 players invited to try out for the teams, selected by a committee chaired by UT Chattanooga coach Jim Foster.
Connecticut Sun guard Kara Lawson was also on the selection panel and she spoke to the candidates on Friday at the training center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I told them I was familiar with where they are, having tried out for USA Basketball teams in high school and college,” Lawson said Saturday. “I understand the various emotions going on inside them.”
Stewart, Tuck and Alexis Jones of Duke all played for the 2011 U19 team. They are the only players in the history of USA Basketball ever to repeat on the team.
“I’m going to lean on them.” Meier said. “They have experienced the [FIBA] U19 World Championship, and I have not. I’m going to really pick their brains and have them speak to the team about the experience, the pressure and the choices that you make while you’re out there.”
Stewart told USA Basketball that she is looking forward to play a new role on this team.
“It’s funny how my role is changing, because this is my second U19 team,” Stewart said. “Last time I was one of the younger ones. This time I’m one of the older ones, and it’s weird. But, I have to be a leader because I’ve been in these situations before and some people haven’t. I have to help show them the ropes.”
Also making the team were Penn State’s Candice Agee, Tennessee’s Bashaara Graves, Linnae Harper of Whitney Young High in Chicago, Brianna Turner of Manvel High in Pearland, Texas, Nia Coffey of Hopkins High in Minneapolis, Gabby Green of St. Mary’s College High in Oakland, Kelsey Plum of La Jolla Country Day in Poway, Calif., and A’ja Wilson of Heathwood Hall High in Hopkins, S.C.
Turner and Wilson are among the players UConn is interested in adding to its Class of 2014 which already includes guards Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark and Gabby Williams.
Tuck, who has already won three gold medals playing for USA Basketball, said she loves the idea of playing for her country.
“It’s a great feeling. It makes you feel like you’re the best in the world. When I get up there, I think of the pictures of the Olympic team when they’re on the podium, and that’s my dream one day. I feel like I’m slowly getting closer,” Tuck said. “I just love coming back. You get to play with the best players in the country. You play with people at school and your same team, but to come out in the summer, get together, practice a little bit and then go play, it’s a great feeling.”
Joining Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis on the World University team are Tennessee’s Ariel Massengale, Cal’s ReShanda Gray, USC’s Cassie Harberts, LSU’s Theresa Plaisance, Baylor’s Odyssey Sims, Aaryn Ellenberg of Oklahoma, Crystal Bradford of Central Michigan, Tricia Liston of Duke, Shonni Schimmel of Louisville and Jordan Hooper of Nebraska.
“I was a little nervous,” Hartley said. “Even though I have made the team before, you don’t want to come in here thinking, ‘Oh, I’m definitely going to make the team.’ You have to stay humble, but you also want to be confident, thinking you could possibly make the team. You have to come out and play basketball the way you know how to.”
Mosqueda-Lewis, who along with Stefanie Dolson were WBCA All-Americans this season, said she really didn’t shoot well during tryouts. She set a school single-season record with 118 three-pointers last season.