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Reigning Big Ten freshman of the year Prahalis and 2009 signee Hill will compete for spots on the USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (USA Basketball) — Headlined by seven players returning from the gold medal winning 2008 USA U18 National Team, USA Basketball announced today that 27 of the nation’s top 19-and-under athletes have accepted invitations to attend the 2009 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship Team Trials. Athlete invitations were extended by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee, chaired by NCAA representative Sue Donohoe (Vice President for Division I Women’s Basketball).

Trials to select finalists for the 09 U19 squad will be held May 14-17 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Training camp will begin on July 8 in Colorado Springs, and the eventual 12-member roster will be announced prior to the team departing for Thailand. Two-time defending FIBA U19 World Championship gold medalists, the USA will look to capture its third straight gold medal at the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship, scheduled for July 23 Aug. 2 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Kelsey Bone (Dulles H.S. /Stafford, Texas); Sarah Boothe (Stanford / Gurnee, Ill.); Skylar Diggins (Washington H.S. / South Bend, Ind.); Kelly Faris (Heritage Christian H.S. / Plainfield, Ind.); Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Stanford / Cypress, Texas); Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State / Dix Hills, N.Y.) and Nikki Speed (Rutgers / Pasadena, Calif.) helped the U.S. qualify for this year’s U19 Worlds by claiming the gold medal at the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, and will return in an attempt to make this summer’s roster.

Also included on the list of trials participants are: LaSondra Barrett (Louisiana State / Jackson, Miss.); Sydney Carter (Texas A&M / DeSoto, Texas); Layshia Clarendon (Cajon H.S. / San Bernadino, Calif.); Nikki Greene (Diboll H.S. / Diboll, Texas); Keisha Hampton (DePaul / Philadelphia, Pa.); Tayler Hill (South H.S. / Minneapolis, Minn.); Shenise Johnson (Miami, Fla. / Henrietta, N.Y.); Kierra Mallard (Texas Tech / Dallas, Texas); Lindsey Moore (Kentwood H.S. / Covington, Wash.); Atonye Nyingifa (UCLA / Torrance, Calif.); C’eira Ricketts (Arkansas / Louisville, Ky.); Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (T.C. Williams H.S. / Alexandria, Va.); Chay Shegog (North Carolina / Stafford, Va.); Andrea Smith (Gulf Coast C.C. / Lakeland, Fla.); Taber Spani (Metro Academy / Lee’s Summit, Mo.); Da’Shena Stevens (St. John’s / Stamford, Conn.); Markel Walker (Schenley H.S. / Pittsburgh, Pa.); Samarie Walker (Chaminade-Julienne H.S. / Dayton, Ohio); Destiny Williams (Benton Harbor H.S. / Benton Harbor, Mich.); and Shawnice Wilson (Pittsburgh / Pittsburgh, Pa.).

“Given the wealth of talent we have in these 27 young women, selecting this year’s USA U19 World Championship Team is not going to be an easy task for the committee,” said Donohoe. “We have some amazing players who will be trying out for just 12 roster spots and I expect that each trials session will be very competitive. However, I feel confident that the committee will be able to put together a team that will make the United States proud in its quest for a third consecutive FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal.”

“I’m excited to get started with trials next week,” said USA and Northern Illinois University head coach Carol Owens. “We have so many great athletes who will be competing hard for a spot on the team. I’m actually happy that I don’t have to pick the team because I know it’s going to be a tough decision for the committee. This is just the first step in what we need to do in order to defend our gold medal and I’m looking forward to the entire process.”

Included on the trials roster are 14 student-athletes who recently completed their freshman year at a NCAA Division I school, one who closed out her freshman campaign at a NJCAA Division I institution, 11 who finished their high school campaigns this year and one athlete who has one year of high school eligibility remaining.

In addition to the seven returning 2008 USA U18 National Team athletes, Hill, Ruffin-Pratt, Shegog and Markel Walker all participated in the 2008 USA Basketball U18 National Team Trials. Further, 10 athletes got their start with USA Basketball at the 2007 USA Youth Development Festival. Bone, Diggins and Prahalis teamed up on the USA White Team to post a perfect 5-0 mark and earn the gold medal; Faris and Shegog aided the USA Blue Team to the silver medal and a 2-3 record; while Boothe, Hill, Ogwumike, Ruffin-Pratt and Speed were members of the USA Red Team that closed the tournament with a 3-2 slate and the bronze medal.

Eleven athletes listed among their conference all-freshman squads following the 2008-09 season, including Barrett and Ricketts, who shared the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year award, and Prahalis, the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year. Also named to their respective all-freshman teams were: Chegog and Johnson in the Atlantic Coast Conference; Carter and Mallard in the Big 12 Conference; Ogwumike in the Pacific-10 Conference; while Stevens, the only unanimous selection in the Big East Conference, was joined on the Big East All-Freshman Team by Hampton and Wilson.

The lone NJCAA athlete, Smith was named to the 2009 State Farm/WBCA Junior College/Community College All-America Team and was also tabbed a 2009 NJCAA All-American.

All 12 high school athletes earned 2009 All-America accolades, including Diggins, the 2009 Gatorade National Player of the Year and 2009 Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year. Also named as their respective Gatorade State Player of the Year were Hill (Minnesota), Moore (Washington), Spani (Kansas), Ruffin-Pratt (Virginia) and Williams (Michigan).

The 2009 WBCA High School All-Americans included Bone, Clarendon, Diggins, Greene, Hill, Ruffin-Pratt, Spani, Markel Walker and Williams. Named to the 2009 USA Today All-USA first team were Bone, Diggins and Hill; and the second team included Faris and Ruffin-Pratt. Parade Magazine listed Bone, Diggins, Faris, Hill, Ruffin-Pratt and Markel Walker among its 2009 All-America first team; Spani and Williams were named Parade All-America second team members; Moore and Samarie Walker earned third team honors; and Clarendon was on Parade’s fourth team. Among the 2009 McDonald’s All-Americans were Bone, Diggins, Faris, Hill, Ruffin-Pratt, Spani, Markel Walker and Williams.

Collegiate head coaches Amanda Butler of the University of Florida and Bill Fennelly of Iowa State University will serve as assistants for the 2009 USA U19 National Team.

The 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship features 16 national teams comprised of athletes 19-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1990) that qualified through their FIBA zone tournaments. Included in the field of nations are: Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Japan, Lithuania, Mali, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Tunisia and the USA.

In addition to Donohoe, the USA Basketball Junior National Team Committee, formerly known as the Women’s Collegiate Committee, includes NCAA appointees Joanne Boyle (head coach, University of California), Coquese Washington (head coach, Penn State University) and Connie Yori (head coach, University of Nebraska); and athlete representative Beth Cunningham (head coach, Virginia Commonwealth University), a member of the 1999 USA Pan American Games Team.

FIBA U19 World Championship
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, the tournament was held every four years starting in 1985. FIBA changed its calendar and, as of 2005, the U19 World Championship is now conducted every other year. USA women’s teams are 41-10 in the U19/Junior World Championships and have won a record three gold medals and one bronze medal. The U.S. captured gold most recently with a 9-0 record in 2007.

After coming up short in the medal count in the first three FIBA U19 World Championships, the U.S. has been on the podium in each of the last four competitions, winning gold in 1997, bronze in 2001 and gold in 2005 and 2007, compiling a 29-2 slate during that run.