Grandview sophomore-to-be Lauren Betts got her first taste of international competition June 17 when the USA U16 Women’s National Team rolled to victory to open the FIBA Americas U16 Championship tournament in Puerto Asyen, Chile.
The 6-foot-7 Betts made the final roster of 12 that was cut down from an original field of 146 hopefuls and made the most of her debut, as she scored 12 points to help the USA to a 114-19 victory over El Salvador.
The Americans were supposed to play June 16, but their game against Mexico was rescheduled to June 19. The delay had little effect as they blew past El Salvador.
“Just from the start, we played super strong,” Betts told USA Basketball. “We did a good job of playing together as a team, not playing one-on-one and working together.
“It was awesome. We just transferred all of our hype from yesterday, when we couldn’t play, to today. We were just so excited. Being out of the country is amazing, and I think it is awesome playing with all of these amazing girls.”
The USA team’s next game is June 18 against Chile (1-0) and it will round out the preliminary round against Mexico before heading into quarterfinal play in the eight-team tournament.
Just before the team left the country, USA U16 coach Mark Campbell (who coaches Union University in Jackson, Tennessee) spoke with Sentinel Colorado about what he’s seen from Betts, who was coming off an outstanding freshman season in which she led Grandview in three statistical categories and helped the Wolves reach the Class 5A state championship game.
“Obviously at first sight, you think about size with Lauren, but this whole process has been going from seeing the outside to the inside,” Campbell said. “What I see is somebody who really cares about her teammates and has some intangible things that go beyond her size and talent. One of the things that’s going to be exciting is how she will gain strength. She is so teachable and tries to apply the things she’s learning so well.
“You add that to the talent and the size and I don’t think we’ve seen even a inch of what she’s going to be as a player.”
Betts fits nicely into the overall unselfish and humble characteristics of a roster that includes players from California, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah.
That’s important given the short timetable.
“We’re putting together a team in a three-week period of time, which is totally opposite of how most teams prepare,” Campbell said. “We have to get better at knowing one another.”
The USA has a very strong tradition in the U16 tournament, boasting a 25-1 all-time record in five trips to the tournament that have yielded four gold medals and a bronze.
Simply making the top four in the tournament guarantees the USA a trip to the 2020 FIBA U17 World Cup scheduled to be played in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports