In the end, power proved to be more important than style.
The 12-girl USA Basketball roster that will play in Merida, Mexico, June 13-18 in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship is heavy on muscle though of course theres plenty of skill as well. Still, the three-person selection committee clearly opted for size as it tried to sort through 115 candidates who came to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 26-30.
The tallest player, and a no-doubt selection, is 6-5 Mercedes Russell from Oregon, who not only is a force inside, but who can also step back and hit jump shots. Russell, like almost all the players here, still has some growing and filling out to do, and should only improve in the coming years.
Backing her up in the post will be 6-3 left-hander Jetarie White from North Carolina, whos reminiscent of Crystal Langhorne, a WNBA All-Star for the Washington Mystics.
Both 6-3 Stephanie Mavunga (Indiana) and 6-1 Sydney Umeri (Georgia) are prototypical power forwards who will bang inside and control the paint. Though Mavunga showed some ability to hit the 15-footer, its clear the committee was impressed with both Mavunga and Umeris strength and power.
Taya Reimer (6-3, Indiana) is also tough inside, but she also showed smooth ballhandling, solid passing and can step out to play the three if necessary. Erica McCall (6-3, California) was more of a role player during the trials, but her speed and all-around game plus of course her 6-3 height earned her a spot on the team.
Rebecca Greenwell (6-1, Kentucky) has already scored more than 3,000 points for her high school team, and shes going into her junior year (she did play as a seventh grader for her small school). Shes an outstanding three-point shooter, but can score inside as well, thanks to her height and strength.
And speaking of strength, Linnae Harper (5-7, Illinois) might well have been the leading rebounder in the scrimmages due to her leaping ability, knack for positioning and raw strength. Harper isnt that comfortable on the perimeter on offense, but her athleticism and explosiveness earned her a spot on the roster.
Jannah Tucker is a bit of a mystery girl, at least in terms of the trials, as she missed the last two days with a foot injury. But shes a strong, skilled 6-0 guard who fits the profile the selection committee preferred.
There were two spots, though, that went to small guards, as Jordin Canada (5-6, California) and Recee Caldwell (5-8, Texas) will be the primary ballhandlers. Canada is more a traditional point guard, while Caldwell is the better shooter.
The final roster:
- Recee Caldwell, 5-8 G, C.T. Johnson HS (TX), 2014
- Jordin Canada, 5-6 PG, Windward (CA), 2014
- Kaela Davis, 6-2 W, Buford HS (GA), 2013
- Rebecca Greenwell, 6-1 W, Owensburg Catholic HS (KY), 2013
- Linnae Harper, 5-7 G, Whitney Young HS (IL), 2013
- Stephanie Mavunga, 6-3 PF, Brownsburg HS (IN), 2013
- Erica McCall, 6-3 F, Bakersfield HS (CA), 2013
- Taya Reimer, 6-3 F, Hamilton Southeastern HS (IN), 2013
- Mercedes Russell, 6-5 C, Springfield HS (OR), 2013
- Jannah Tucker, 6-0 G, New Town HS (MD), 2013
- Sydney Umeri, 6-1 PF, The Lovett School (GA), 2013
- Jatarie White, 6-3 P, Providence Day (NC), 2014
The team will be coached by Jill Rankin Schneider of Monterey High School in Texas.