Several Lady Vols set for USA WUG trials

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Four Tennessee Lady Vols will be among 31 players invited to participate in the 2013 USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team trials, USA Basketball announced Wednesday. Another UT standout also will receive consideration.

Rising senior Meighan Simmons (Cibolo, Texas/Byron P. Steele H.S.) and rising juniors Cierra Burdick (Charlotte, N.C./Butler H.S.), Isabelle Harrison (Nashville, Tenn./Hillsboro H.S.) and Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook H.S.) will be at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on May 16-19, hoping to earn spots on the U.S. squad that will compete in the World University Games women’s basketball competition on July 8-15 in Kazan, Russia.

Current collegiate athletes invited to participate in the 2013 USA U19 World Championship Team trials, including UT’s Bashaara Graves, are eligible and also may be considered for the 2013 USA World University Games Team. Trials for both teams will take place in staggered sessions May 16-19.

All five players played significant roles for Tennessee during a 2012-13 season that saw the Lady Vols finish 27-8, win an SEC regular season title and advance to the NCAA Elite 8. Simmons was named SEC Co-Player of the Year and a third-team All-American by Associated Press and Full Court, while Graves was SEC Freshman of the Year and a Full Court third-team All-American.

The 12-member roster is expected to be announced the morning of May 19, and all athletes will depart for home. The team will regroup for training June 25-July 1 at the USOTC prior to traveling to Russia.

“We're fortunate that the World University Games age group allows for the development of our college-aged players and gives them an opportunity outside of the Olympics to gain international experience at the highest level," said committee chair Jim Foster, who has been a member of nine different USA Basketball coaching staffs. “We feel that this is a good mix of players to build a team that will represent USA Basketball well in Russia.”

Burdick and Massengale are among three players in the trials who have helped the USA Basketball win three gold medals. The Big Orange standouts are back in the international mix for the first time since helping win a gold medal and forge an 8-1 record at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship. Burdick averaged 5.7 ppg. and 6.0 rpg., while Massengale averaged 7.2 ppg., 4.3 rpg. and 4.3 apg. For her efforts on that squad, Massengale was named to the five-member All-FIBA U19 World Championship Team.

In 2010 five players earned a gold medal with USA Basketball at the FIBA U17 World Championship, including Burdick (7.6 ppg. and 4.8 rpg.) and Massengale (10.1 ppg., 3.3 rpg. and 5.4 apg.). Four players also won gold at the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, including Burdick (6.9 ppg., 4.4 rpg. and 3.6 apg.) and Massengale (12.0 ppg., 3.4 rpg. and 4.8 apg.).

Ten players will come to the 2013 WUGs trials with experience from previous USA Basketball national team trials, including Harrison (2010 U17 trials) and Simmons (2011 U19 trials and 2010 U18 trials).

Organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and held every other year, the World University Games is a multi-sport competition open to men and women who are between the ages of 17 and 24 (born 01/01/89 through 12/31/95). The USA Basketball women’s team will be comprised of U.S. citizens who are currently enrolled in college and have remaining eligibility.

“The trials roster boasts some incredible talent,” said Sherri Coale, USA and University of Oklahoma head coach. “The challenge for the committee will be selecting the players who fit together best.

“First and foremost, the players must understand what an honor it is to be invited to participate in the trials. With that honor comes the expectation that they will compete and work in a manner commensurate with the legacy of USA basketball. In a relatively short amount of time we hope to ascertain not only individual strengths but also collective strengths so that we might put together a team capable of winning in a variety of ways while also representing our country in the best possible manner.

“The trials themselves will be designed to reveals skill sets, decision making ability, basketball acumen and, just as importantly, a willingness to learn and accept roles.”

The USA has been placed in Group B for the 2013 WUGs and will open at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on July 8 against Belarus, followed by Czech Republic at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on July 9 and its final preliminary-round opponent, Brazil, at 4:30 a.m. (EDT) on July 10. Following the preliminary round, the first and second placed teams in each of the four pools will advance to the medal quarterfinals to compete for 1st-8th places, while the remaining teams will compete for 9th-24th places. The quarterfinals will be played on July 12, with the semifinals on July 13 and the gold medal game on July 15.

Chaired by Foster, the 2013-16 USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee includes NCAA appointees Melanie Balcomb (head coach, Vanderbilt University), Lindsay Gottlieb (head coach, University of California) and Joi Williams (head coach, UCF), as well as athlete representative Kara Lawson, a former Lady Vol, current WNBA player and 2008 Olympic gold medalist who has played on nine USA Basketball teams.

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