Release courtesy of USA Basketball 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Following three days of team trials featuring 27 of the nation’s top 19-and-unders competing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., USA Basketball today announced the 14 finalists for the 2009 USA Women’s U19 World Championship Team. The finalists will return to Colorado Springs on July 9 to begin training for the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship, which will be held July 23-Aug. 2 in Bangkok, Thailand. The eventual 12-member team will be finalized prior to the team’s departure for Thailand. The athlete selections were made by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee, chaired by NCAA representative Sue Donohoe (Vice President for Division I Women’s Basketball).

Included among the finalists are returning USA Basketball gold medalists 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) and Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State / Dix Hills, N.Y.), who helped the U.S. secure its berth to the ’09 U19 Worlds by claiming gold at the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.

Also included on the list of finalists are: LaSondra Barrett (Louisiana State / Jackson, Miss.); Layshia Clarendon (Cajon H.S. / San Bernadino, Calif.); Shenise Johnson (Miami, Fla. / Henrietta, N.Y.); C’eira Ricketts (Arkansas / Louisville, Ky.); Chay Shegog (North Carolina / Stafford, Va.); Taber Spani (Metro Academy / Lee’s Summit, Mo.); Destiny Williams (Benton Harbor H.S. / Benton Harbor, Mich.); and Shawnice Wilson (Pittsburgh / Pittsburgh, Pa.).

“I thought the trials went really well, each session got better and better,” said USA U19 National Team and Northern Illinois University head coach Carol Owens. “I’m excited about our team. I think our strength will be our transition game, in particular our posts I think will be very good. We have some scorers obviously, I’m excited to get them in training camp to work on our defenses and get our offenses going. We don’t have a lot of time to put this team together but we have a mature group and I think we’ll be ready to play.”

“The competition level was very high,” said Donohoe. “You had tremendous talent out on the floor. It was a fun trials to just sit and watch the quality play of these young women. If there was anything surprising at all it was the intensity level that these young women kept throughout the trials. Sometimes you come in and they go through a session or two and they start getting tired and that intensity level drops. What we saw during these trials was the intensity level seemed to pick up with each training session and that made our decision a little bit more difficult.

Owens is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Amanda Butler of the University of Florida and Bill Fennelly of Iowa State University.

Included on the roster are eight student-athletes who recently completed their freshman year at a NCAA

Division I school and six who finished their high school campaigns this year.

In addition to the six returning 2008 USA U18 National Team athletes, Shegog also participated in the 2008 USA Basketball U18 National Team Trials. Further, six 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, and Ogwumike were members of the USA Red Team that closed the tournament with a 3-2 slate and the bronze medal.

Seven 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; Ogwumike in the Pacific-10 Conference; and Wilson in the Big East Conference.

All six 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 Spani (Kansas) and Williams (Michigan). The 2009 WBCA High School All-Americans included Bone, Clarendon, Diggins, Spani and Williams. Named to the 2009 USA Today All-USA first team were Bone and; and the second team included Faris. Parade Magazine listed Bone, Diggins and Faris among its 2009 All-America first team; Spani and Williams were named Parade All-America second team members; and Clarendon was on Parade’s fourth team. Among the 2009 McDonald’s All-Americans were Bone, Diggins, Faris, Spani and Williams.

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.

The 16 teams have been drawn into four preliminary round pools of four teams each and the U.S. has been placed into Group D with China, Mali and Spain. Group A features Argentina, Australia, France and South Korea; Group B includes Brazil, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Thailand; while Group C includes Canada, Japan, Russia and Tunisia.

The U.S. is slated to open preliminary round play against Spain on July 23, followed by China on July 24 and Mali on July 25. The top three finishing teams in each preliminary round group will advance to the July 27-29 second round, the quarterfinals will be played on July 31, semifinal action is scheduled for Aug. 1 and the gold medal will be contested on Aug. 2.

Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State University)
What do you think you did that stood out in front of the committee?
I tried to play defense and do the little things. At this point, everyone’s a great player, so you have to do the little things. I tried to play defense and be a leader as a point guard.

Coach Jim Foster has been involved with USA Basketball a lot and knows the international game. Did he give you any advice?
He just told me to be a leader and play defense, do the little things, the hustle plays and definitely lead my team.

Do you think your experience last summer as a member of the USA U18 National Team and having a year of college under your belt helped?
Yeah, I think the experience helped. I grew up a lot, and I think the overall experience definitely helped.

What does it mean for you to represent the United States of America?
It means a lot. It’s real special, and you have to appreciate it.