Local girls excited about opportunity in U16 national basketball team trials

May 24, 2013 Updated: May 24, 2013 at 6:55 pm
photo - Parents and supporters of girls trying out for the USA U16 team peek through the windows at a gym at the Olympic Training Center on Friday, May 24, 2013. (Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
Parents and supporters of girls trying out for the USA U16 team peek through the windows at a gym at the Olympic Training Center on Friday, May 24, 2013. (Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

Palmer High School's Abigail Torres-Drozd could not quite contain her excitement. But then, it may be the only time this weekend she did not try too hard.

The incoming Terrors sophomore guard couldn't believe she was at the USA Basketball women's Under-16 national team trials this weekend.

"I drive by the (U.S. Olympic) Training Center on my way to school every day and always wanted to be in here," she said after the four-day camp began. "To finally be in here is a dream come true."

There were Olympic hopes aplenty, whether it was the 124 participants competing for one of 12 roster spots for the U.S. entry at the FIBA AmericasU16 Championship in Cancun, Mexico, June 19-23, or the cluster of parents watching from outside the gym through windows.

Five others from Colorado Springs are competing. They are: Rampart guard Kaleah Hires, Mesa Ridge center Kylee Shook, Sand Creek teammates Liah Davis and Oliana Squires and Palmer forward Jennifer Urbaniak.

All showed varying degrees of excitement for being included among some of the nation's best 14- and 15-year-olds. Of the 124, 32 were invited to tryouts while others applied through their club and high school coaches and paid for admittance.

"I was really excited and a little nervous at the start," Squires said. "Then we started and I calmed down. I feel I can hang with these girls. I have done a lot of these drills before so I feel pretty good about my chances."

The first two days of the trials are a skills and fundamentals camp along with seminars for parents and athletes regarding improving performance, performance-enhancing drugs and recruiting.

"All you can do is work and play as hard as you can," Urbaniak said. "The coaches are looking for the right attitude."

Saturday and Sunday will be used to whittle down the number of participants before the coaches announce the Cancun roster Monday morning. They have a training camp June 10-16 at the OTC prior to the tournament.

Davis plans to be back. She enjoyed the intensity and level of play demanded in the skills sessions.

"It's a great learning experience," she said. "You learn what the coaches are looking for at the national level."

One player who had more experience in that than some is Hires, whose mother and father have worked with the women's national teams for decades. Her mother, Chryssandra, is a referee and had to leave during the 1998 trials to give birth to Kaleah.

"The national team players have all been her aunties over the years," her mother said. "She has been around this literally her entire life."

Regardless of their national camps exposure, the chance to shout "USA!" after each huddle was a thrill, judging from their smiles at the thought.

"Getting to do that is amazing," said the 6-foot-4 Shook, who is healthy after an ankle injury ended her 2012-13 season. "It is such a good feeling to support your country."

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