South Carolina’s women’s basketball team will have an international flavor next season.
Tiffany Mitchell departed Monday for Moscow and the 3x3 World Championships, where she’ll become the third Gamecock this year to participate in USA basketball. Dawn Staley will coach the U.S. under-18 national team and assist on the top national U.S. team, while freshman A’ja Wilson will play for Staley and the U18 squad.
“I can equate gold medals with national championships,” said Staley, who’s been associated with USA basketball for 25 years. “You’re putting the team first, wanting to achieve the ultimate goal, you sacrifice. It plays into what we’re trying to do at South Carolina.”
Wilson made the U18 team after a tryout in Colorado Springs, and will return there with Staley in late July. It gives Staley a head start on mentoring the top prize in her latest recruiting class and gives Wilson, no stranger to USA basketball herself, a chance to play with and against other college players before she takes the floor in November.
“She’s going to get a real good feel for me as a coach between the lines, and I’ll get a real feel for how A’ja plays in a college setting,” Staley said. “She’s not going to have a whole lot of transition on the court, because she’s already so skillful.”
Mitchell was a late addition to the 3x3 tryouts but joined a team with Tennessee’s Cierra Burdick, Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd and Louisville’s Sara Hammond. Teams have three players and one substitute, and play 10-minute games with 12-second shot clocks. The first team to 21 points or the team with the most points when the buzzer sounds wins.
Mitchell’s team won the U.S. championship in Colorado and advanced to the world championships in Russia. Mitchell will be there until Sunday, then fly back to her native Charlotte before reporting to Columbia for the rest of the Summer I session.
“(Former Gamecocks) Ieasia (Walker) and Ashley (Bruner), they went out last year, and I think they won the whole thing,” Mitchell said. “I’m excited, but nerves go out the window when we start playing.”
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