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Top recruit Mikaylah Williams headlines talented U17 National Team

Mikaylah Williams (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

The USA Basketball run at the FIBA U17 Women’s World Cup has been emphatically noted. They’ve won four of the last five times the event has been held, and they’ll look to add to that dominance again this year.

Mikaylah Williams, Juju Watkins and Breya Cunningham are among the top three recruits headlining the star-studded U17 National Team, a 12-player squad that was finalized on June 1.

They’ll gear up for next month’s action at the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup, which is slated to take place July 9-17 in Debrecen, Hungary, and head coach Sue Phillips is thrilled at the versatility this year’s roster has to offer.

“Understanding that it will take perhaps a variety of styles of play to be effective on any given night, I love the prospects of the interchangeable pieces and the different types of roster formations that we can put on the floor to be effective,” Phillips said.

This year marks the fifth USA Basketball coaching assignment for the longtime coach, who led the U16 team to a gold medal a year ago at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mexico. Cunningham, Watkins, Madison Booker, Jaloni Cambridge, Jadyn Donovan, and Jada Williams were each members of that team, which defeated Canada 118-45 in the final.

Her experience with the U17 team is also worth noting. In 2014, Phillips helmed a squad that survived a 40-point performance from Angela Salvadores in the championship game, claiming a 77-75 win over Spain. That gold-medal team was also star-studded in its own right, including the likes of Arike Ogunbowale, Lauren Cox, Asia Durr and Sabrina Ionescu.

“We’re not only going to need to utilize our talent, but we have to play smart and play hard and play together. We can’t play hero ball,” Phillips said. “A lot of these teams that we’ll be competing against have been together for months, if not years, and their ability to work a two-player game and have this incredible chemistry on the floor is a given. So we are going to have to have our two-player defensive strategies on point.”

Mikaylah Williams is the two-time reigning Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year after leading Parkway High School (La.) to a 32-2 record and a state championship last season, during which she averaged 22.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game. She remains uncommitted but has narrowed her list of schools down to five — Baylor, Duke, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

Phillips lauds Williams’ “instant offense” and is thrilled to have the top recruit in the class of 2023 leading the way for Team USA.

“I think she has a beautiful mid-range game. It’s automatic,” Phillips said. “She has a knack for scoring. You give her a seam or space, she’s going to be able to get us a bucket. She’s strong, explosive. She can get on the glass. We’re going to need our guards to rebound to gain us some extra possessions and to secure the defensive stops.”

The reigning 2021-22 Gatorade California Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Watkins is also no stranger to Phillips. In March, Watkins notched a double-double with 23 points and 19 rebounds to lead Sierra Canyon to an 85-61 win over Archbishop Mitty in the Open Division state championship.

That Archbishop Mitty team was coached by none other than Phillips, who saw first-hand just how dynamic Watkins has become.

“Her team was victorious, and Juju was a big part of that,” Phillips said about Watkins, who averaged 25.0 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in guiding the Trailblazers to a 30-2 record last season. “She’s a three-level scorer. She’s probably one of the best I’ve seen in my 30-year coaching tenure in being able to finish with and through contact. She’s incredibly strong and creative with her finishes around the rim. She can impact the game defensively as well. She has great anticipation and athleticism, just an incredible feel for the game.”

Phillips is joined by assistant coaches Tom McConnell (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and Brittanny Johnson (Evanston Township High School [Ill.]). Phillips believes both excel in different ways to create a fully-formed unit.

“Being able to help us conduct an effective and efficient practice and then also provide the mid-game adjustment insights, I really enjoy working with Tom and look forward to the coming weeks,” Phillips said. “Brittanny was a court coach last year and has now been put on the coaching staff as one of my assistants. I really enjoyed working with her in trials a few weeks ago. I think she is very intuitive about the game. She has a great understanding of the sense of strengths that our players can bring to the table.”

Selected by the USA Basketball Developmental National Team Committee, the U17 team is made up of future graduates from 2023 and 2024. They were chosen after six days of trials in Colorado Springs, Colo., where 40 invitees were dwindled down to a dozen.

Additionally, Kennedy Umeh was a finalist for the 2021 U16 roster, while Mikaylah Williams also has experience with USA Basketball, helping lead her team to a gold medal finish at the 2021 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Cup.

With the start of training camp looming ahead on June 26, Phillips is filling that time coaching her club and AAU teams. But the anticipation of heading to Europe to compete for gold is building by the day.

Times like these are everything to a coach who’s been in the ranks for more than 20 years.

“It’s an amazing two weeks. I just love basketball,” Phillips said. “I love teaching and coaching the game. I couldn’t be more excited to support the red, white and blue with this particular roster and coaching staff. I’m excited with our prospects and ability to make the World Cup, and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Click here to see a preview of the U18 National Team roster.

MEET THE TEAM

Sunaja Agara, 16, Hopkins HS (Minn.)
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.
Height: 6-2
Class: 2023
Commitment: Stanford

Madison Booker, 16, Germantown HS (Miss.)
Hometown: Ridgeland, Miss.
Height: 6-1
Class: 2023
Commitment: Undeclared

Jaloni Cambridge, 16, The Ensworth School (Tenn.)
Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
Height: 5-0
Class: 2024
Commitment: Undeclared

Morgan Cheli, 16, Archbishop Mitty HS (Calif.)
Hometown: Los Altos, Calif.
Height: 6-1
Class: 2024
Commitment: Undeclared

Breya Cunningham, 17, La Jolla Country Day School (Calif.)
Hometown: Chula Vista, Calif.
Height: 6-4
Class: 2023
Commitment: Undeclared

Jadyn Donovan, 16, Sidwell Friends School (Washington, D.C.)
Hometown: Upper Marlboro, Md.
Height: 6-0
Class: 2023
Commitment: Undeclared

Hannah Hidalgo, 17, Paul VI HS (N.J.)
Hometown: Merchantville, N.J.
Height: 5-7
Class: 2023
Commitment: Undeclared

Mackenly Randolph, 16, Sierra Canyon School (Calif.)
Hometown: Encino, Calif.
Height: 6-1
Class: 2024
Commitment: Undeclared

Kennedy Umeh, 15, McDonogh School (Md.)
Hometown: Columbia, Md.
Height: 6-4
Class: 2024
Commitment: Undeclared

Judea Watkins, 16, Sierra Canyon School (Calif.)
Hometown: Sylmar, Calif.
Height: 6-1
Class: 2023
Commitment: Undeclared

Jada Williams, 17, La Jolla Country Day School (Calif.)
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Height: 5-8
Class: 2023
Commitment: UCLA

Mikaylah Williams, 16, Parkway HS (La.)
Hometown: Bossier City, La.
Height: 6-1
Class: 2023
Commitment: Undeclared

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

Caitlin Clark Signs Multi-Year Deal with Wilson, Gets Signature Basketball Collection

caitlin clark poses with wilson basketball
Clark is just the second athlete to get a signature basketball collection with Wilson. (Wilson Sporting Goods)

Caitlin Clark has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Wilson Sporting Goods that will include a signature basketball collection, the brand announced early Tuesday. 

According to Boardroom, Clark is just the second athlete to develop a signature collection with Wilson, with the first being Michael Jordan in the 1980s. In addition to her basketball collection, she will also "test, advise and provide feedback on a range" of related products. 

Three Clark-branded white-and-gold Wilson basketballs have already dropped. Each ball features laser-cut engravings of some of the guard's most memorable moments at Iowa, where she became the all-time leading scorer in Division I college basketball history.

Three Wilson basketballs from Clark's collection have already dropped. (Wilson Sporting Goods).

"I think it is super special, and it's been fun for me," Clark told Boardroom. "I feel like I was just that young kid who had those basketballs that I would store in the garage. I'm just very lucky and fortunate to partner with Wilson to create something that everyone can enjoy. It connects with a lot of generations, and it'll be fun to see kids walking around holding them."

The No. 1 overall pick at the 2024 WNBA Draft, Clark has been building up a slate of major endorsements since turning pro. Current partnerships include Gatorade and Panini, and she’s also close to signing a signature shoe deal with Nike worth a reported $28 million.

New York Liberty off to First 4-0 Start in 17 Years

sabrina ionescu of the new york liberty on the court
Sabrina Ionescu led the undefeated Liberty to a 74-63 win over Seattle Monday night. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2007. 

The 2023 WNBA title finalists notched a 74-63 win over Seattle on Monday night, with Sabrina Ionescu dropping 20 points alongside eight assists. After the game, Ionescu told reporters she thought the team was coming together a bit easier than they did last year.

"I think having a year together, we don't nearly have to communicate as much on the court anymore," she said. "Because we can just play off one another and read. And that's obviously been the growth of this team, is being able to play a season together last year."

The team’s defense has also contributed heavily to the season's winning start. Last night, the Liberty held Jewell Loyd to just 13 points and nine rebounds. Loyd let the Storm in scoring, with only two other players in double digits, while Nneka Ogwumike missed her second straight game with an ankle injury. 

Storm free agency acquisition Skylar Diggins-Smith had eight points, and is averaging 14.5 points and 5.8 assists per game this season. In her postgame remarks, Storm head coach Noelle Quinn called on others to give her grace in her return. 

"There needs to be respect about the fact that she's had two children and hasn’t played in 20 months," said Quinn. "She’s not going to come overnight and be who she was 20 months ago and we have to respect that and honor that. And I do.

"My grace as a coach is to know she’s working her butt off every day. You guys don’t see it. Every single day. Two children. Not one, two. Not many can do that."

Australia’s Sam Kerr Ruled Out for 2024 Paris Olympics With ACL Injury

sam kerr playing for the australian womens national team
A longtime Matildas mainstay, Kerr has made 128 appearances for Australia alongside 69 career goals. (Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Australia has confirmed that captain and star striker Sam Kerr will miss the Paris Olympics due to an ACL injury suffered early this year. 

Kerr, who also stars for Chelsea, tore her ACL in January. While unlikely that she would recover in time for the Olympics, Football Australia (FA) hadn’t confirmed her status until Tuesday when the team revealed its squad for upcoming warm-up games. 

In a statement, the FA said that Kerr remained on the sidelines and will continue her rehab program at Chelsea. 

"Attacker Amy Sayer (ACL) and forward Sam Kerr (ACL) remain on the sidelines with long term injuries," the report read. "Kerr and Sayer will continue their rehabilitation programmes in their home club environments and subsequently will not be available for selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

Tuesdays 23-player squad is a "strong guide" to the final Olympic lineup, according to coach Tony Gustavsson, but others like injured midfielders Katrina Gorry and Aivi Luik could potentially figure into the conversation. 

"[They] most likely will be physically available to be part of an Olympic roster," Gustavsson said of Gorry and Luik. "This window will be a tough one for me and my staff in terms of evaluating players, where they are, and then the final selection process for Paris."

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