After four days of trials that began on May 25 with 133 hopefuls at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, two California girls were among the 18 finalists, but when the 12-member 2017 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team was announced on Wednesday there were no girls from the Golden State on the roster.
The two finalists were State Sophomore of the Year Haley Jones of Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and Ramani Parker of Fresno Central. They stayed on for two days of training camp with the other 16 finalists but were unable to make the team.
According to more than one of our sources comprised of analysts and college coaches the 6-foot-1 Jones did not play tremendously well at any one aspect of her game but was named a finalist because of her defense and ability to play every position on the floor.
In the end that was not enough to get her a spot on the team despite the fact Dan Olson of ESPN gave her a solid write-up for her work in Colorado and has her rated as the No. 6 player in the class of 2019, and eight from that class were chosen.
“My college coach sources that were there said she played well and they liked her defense and ability to play multiple positions, but she needed to do a better job of finishing,” Mitty head coach Sue Phillips said.
As for the 6-foot-4 Parker, our sources said she got to the final 18 for her height combined with leaping ability, mobility, shot-blocking presence, and length and wingspan.
California will be represented at events involving the team by Windward (Los Angeles) head coach Vanessa Nygaard. She will join Steve Gomez of Lubbock Christian (Texas) on the staff of head coach Carla Berube of Tufts University.
Of the 133 girls that started out at the camp, 14 were from California and of those 11 made it past the first cut. Besides Jones and Parker, there were six other California girls that made the second-to-last cut and one of those was Class of 2019 6-foot-5 post Angel Jackson of Richmond Salesian.
“Nothing to be ashamed of there. I’m very proud of her effort,” Salesian head coach Stephen Pezzola remarked. “In that type of competition, it’s a tremendous effort to get past day one.”
The other five girls from California that got to the fifth cut were from SoCal, and a very familiar name from that group is Te-Hina Paopao from La Jolla Country Day. Despite not being fully recovered from the ACL injury that wiped out all but a handful of her games in her freshman season, Paopao played well.
“She was in really good shape and she had a really good showing, but she’s not 100-percent yet. I still thought she might make it but she didn’t,” said Country Day head coach Terri Bamford, who was the only coach of the three interviewed that was present in Colorado.
When queried about the lack of more California girls at the elite level this year, more than one analyst and coach attributed it to the growing competition with other sports.
“In recent years there’s been a hollowing out of talent flow because of volleyball and soccer, plus water polo and lacrosse,” said noted girls basketball analyst Clay Kallam who was in Colorado and helped with the cut list. “Fewer elite athletes in California are playing basketball, but as several girls from Texas told me, in states like Texas, more of the elite athletes play basketball. California is down a little now, and it’s possible that a bounceback is right around the corner. It’s also possible that the flow of talent to other sports means that California won’t ever be as strong, relatively speaking, as it once was.”
Jones and Parker made it to the final sixth cut while those joining Paopao and Jackson and getting to the fifth cutdown of players at the camp were Cailyn Crocker of Los Alamitos (5-8 jr. G), Maya McArthur from Dana Hills of Dana Point (6-4 jr. F), Charisma OSborne from Windward of Los Angeles (5-7 jr. G) and Alexis Tucker from Serra of Gardena (5-11 jr. F).
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend