Grain Valley's Grace Slaughter, Blue Springs' Jada Williams among finalists for USA national team
INDIANAPOLIS — Local players Grace Slaughter and Jada Williams are among the 16 finalists to make the 2021 USA Basketball Women's U16 National Team.
They made the cut after eight trials sessions featuring 34 athletes who are age 16 and younger. The final 12 members of the team will be announced at 9 p.m. Friday.
Slaughter, who has been The Examiner's Player of the Year the past two seasons, just completed her sophomore season at Grain Valley High School. Williams, who shared the award with Slaughter as a freshman, earned a spot on The Examiner's All-Area Team this past season and all-state honors for the second straight year.
The finalists were selected by the USA Basketball Women’s Developmental National Team Committee.
"This has been amazing," said Slaughter, who has made a verbal commitment to Missouri. "I'm learning so much from our coaches and my teammates – and I'm making so many new friends. I'm so lucky because I am going to take so much more than basketball away from the trials.
"And it's a special honor to represent Grain Valley, my high school and community, the University of Missouri and our country."
"This is so exciting – the opportunity of a lifetime," said Williams, who has verbally committed to UCLA. "We're all playing our hearts out, and paying attention to everything that goes on, in our games and what our coaches are saying.
"I'm listening from ear to ear and making sure everything they say stays in there. And I'm having the time of my life!"
USA coach Sue Phillips had praise for the committee that selected the initial group of 34 players to attend the camp.
“The committee did a terrific job in pairing down the roster to 16,” said Phillips, who is serving for a second time as the USA U16 National Team head coach after leading the 2013 USA U16 squad to a gold medal.
“We had some incredibly talented athletes, who made it such a difficult journey for the committee. I could tell they were working tirelessly throughout the week to evaluate such a hard-working group of young athletes.
“I’m excited for this group and the opportunity to see them over the next two days to determine which 12 will be joining us at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.”
Team members will return to USA Basketball for training camp on Aug. 4, to prepare for the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, which is expected to be played Aug. 16-22 in Santiago, Chile.
Slaughter and Williams are among five athletes who have prior USA Basketball experience after participating in the 2019 USA U16 National Team trials.