Campbell one of 18 left vying for USA spot

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Bellwood-Antis High School sophomore basketball standout Alli Campbell is now a finalist for the 2018 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Cup Team.

Following four days of skills and trials sessions, which began with 158 athletes on Thursday at the United States Olympic Training Center, 18 finalists were selected for the 2018 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Cup Team on Monday morning, and Campbell was one of the 18 girls picked.

Selection of the finalists and eventual 12-member USA U17 World Cup Team was conducted by USA Basketball Women’s Developmental National Team Committee.

Finalists will remain in Colorado Springs for training camp through Wednesday. The official, 12-member roster for the 2018 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Cup Team is expected to be announced Wednesday evening. The selected team members will return to Colorado Springs on July 4 to resume training camp. Athletes eligible for this team must be U.S. citizens who are 17 years old or younger.

The 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup will be held July 21-29 at Minsk’s Sport Palace and Falcon Club in Minsk, Belarus. The USA qualified for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup with a gold-medal finish at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship this past summer.

Campbell, who led Bellwood to the PIAA Class 2A championship in March, is one of three newcomers to the U.S. national team, joining Aubrey Griffin of Ossining, N.Y., and Hannah Gusters of DeSoto, Texas.

Eight of the finalists return after claiming gold at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, and seven others have taken part in a USA Basketball trials or 3×3 event.

Returning from the 2017 USA U16 national team are: Aliyah Boston (St. Thomas, USVI), who was named MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, as well as Fran Belibi (Centennial, Colo.); Samantha Brunelle (Ruckersville, Va.); Paige Bueckers (St. Louis Park, Minn.); Zia Cooke (Toledo, Ohio); Azzi Fudd (Arlington, Va.); Jordan Horston (Columbus, Ohio); and Celeste Taylor (Valley Stream, N.Y.)

Additionally, Boston, Brunelle, Bueckers and Hailey Van Lith (Wenatchee, Wash.) won the 2018 USA Basketball Women’s 3×3 U18 National Championship on March 25, and on April 4 were named to the 2018 U.S. Youth Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that will compete in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games Oct. 6-18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Six additional players had taken part in at least one prior USA Basketball trials, including: River Baldwin (Andalusia, Ala.); Cameron Brink (Beaverton, Ore.); Rickea Jackson (Detroit, Mich.); Haley Jones (Santa Cruz, Calif.); Charisma Osborne (Moreno Valley, Calif.); and Angel Reese (Randallstown, Md.).

“I’m really excited,” said Carla Berube, USA U17 and Tufts University head coach. “I just heard the names of the 18 finalists and I’m ready to go in a couple hours for our first practice. It’s a great combination of players. I know it was difficult for the committee, but I think it’s a really strong group of 18.

“It’s going to be really hard (to cut the list down to 12). We’ll have six practices and then we’ll have our 12 on Wednesday night. We’re going to battle in practice, get better and work on some things we’ll need in Belarus, and then figure out what’s the best 12 combination of players.”

Berube is being assisted by Lubbock Christian University head coach Steve Gomez and Winward School (Calif.) head coach Vanessa Nygaard.

The FIBA U17 World Cup for Women, which is held every two years, originated in 2010. The USA captured the 2010 FIBA U17 World Cup gold medal. Also claiming gold in 2012 and 2014, the USA’s winning streak at the FIBA U17s was halted in 2016 by eventual gold medalist Australia in the semifinal game. The USA, however, rebounded to claim bronze with a 6-1 record. The USA is now 29-1 all-time in the four editions of the event.

The USA will open preliminary round play against Italy on July 21 before facing Mali on July 22 and China on July 24. All 16 teams advance to the July 25 round of 16 and winners will advance to the July 27 quarterfinals. Medal semifinals will be held July 28 and the gold medal will be contested July 29.

In addition to host Belarus, nations competing in the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup are: Angola, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, New Zealand and Spain.

Some of the players who have competed for USA Women’s U17 National Teams include: Lindsay Allen (2012), Diamond DeShields (2012), Rebecca Greenwell (2012), Joyner Holmes (2014), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2010), Ariel Massengale (2010), Olivia Nelson-Ododa (2016), Mercedes Russell (2012), Katie Lou Samuelson (2016), Breanna Stewart (2010), Christyn Williams (2016) and Elizabeth Williams (2010).