Tyra Grant flashes a smile and pounds her chest after hitting clutch shots in close basketball games. This summer, she has the chance to take her talent and tenacity overseas.
Grant picked up the phone this week to an elite invitation to try out for a world-class team. The Penn State junior guard will travel to Colorado Springs next month to take part in the USA Basketball Trials, attempting to earn a spot on America's World University Games squad.
"I was ecstatic, actually," said Grant, in a phone interview from University Park. "Coach 'Quese' [Coquese Washington] called, and she kind of made it seem like I was in trouble or something like that, and then she told me I was invited. At first I was kind of shocked, but I was really happy to be honored with something like this."
Grant earned the prestigious invite after an outstanding basketball campaign, during which she proved herself to be among the best in the Big Ten. She earned first-team all-conference honors after finishing second in the league in scoring, averaging just under 20 points per game. But she knows the competition in Colorado will be even stiffer.
"Because those are great, talented players from all over every conference, so you can actually test your ability and see where you stand against all those girls," Grant said. "To be able to go against players of that caliber will be great to test your skill level, your will, endurance, and ability to keep pushing and going on."
Grant's will was on display last season against Wisconsin, when she almost single-handedly brought the Lady Lions back from a 17-point second-half deficit. Grant scored 32 points, including the game-winning buzzer-beater in overtime, her smile and chest-thumps energizing her teammates and exciting the Bryce Jordan Center crowd.
"I've learned a lot about myself," she said. "That even though I may have bad times and feel some days like it's too hard, that I have the ability to keep going. I feel like I have the will to keep pushing through all the hardships, through coaching changes and things like that."
Grant is focusing this offseason on more than her international opportunity. With a recruiting class ranked in the top 20 nationally coming to Happy Valley, she is committed to making her senior season the best yet, both for herself and the Penn State program.
"I feel like there is a lot more that I myself and the team has to work on to connect as one unit, and all four captains are seniors, so we're working as leaders just to get us all on one page."
But that page may have to wait a month or so, while Grant tries to earn a spot on Team USA. She could be wearing red white and blue and battling for international supremacy in Belgrade, Serbia, where her determination and desire will need no translation.
Goodman can be reached at email@example.com.