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2023 USA U16 Trials and Team: Sometimes the Calendar Can Hinder Success

By Bob Corwin , 06/09/23, 6:15AM PDT


Photo Credit: USA Basketball

On June 4, 2023, USA Basketball announced the selection (roster below) of the 2023 USA Women’s U16 National Team which was selected following trials which began on Friday, May 26, at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The team will compete at the 2023 FIBA U16 Women’s Americas Championship June 13-19 in Merida, Mexico.  In this article, I will discuss matters surrounding the trials and the team rather than focusing on individual players. 

Before proceeding, I wish to thank Briana Weiss, USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director, and all those associated with the U16 Trials for making my time at the Training Center an enjoyable experience as well as providing timely updates on schedule changes and player cuts during Trials.   One must be credentialed to attend and with limited space, not everyone may be granted media access. 
The Trials  

Fifty-two of fifty-five (three recently injured) invited began the process on Friday, May 26, with two sessions (roughly two hours in length) followed by two sessions on Saturday and Sunday after which 22 players were carried through Monday and Tuesday (May 30).  Over the next few days, 14 players vied for the final 12 slots which were announced on June 4.  Having sat through trials on first three days, I would aim to bring between 50 and 60 players to the May trials.  Some years back, as many as 150 participated and during Covid-19 restricted times, the number was around 30.  The goal is to pick a team.  This is not a teaching camp although one would hope all candidates grew from the experience.     

Media and parents/high school coaches were only allowed into the afternoon sessions on Friday and Saturday, both sessions on Sunday (after which I headed home) and the one session on Monday and Tuesday.  Given morning sessions on Friday and Saturday were not open to the public, it is hard to criticize the selections of 22 from 52 as observations from those hours were unavailable to media and there were multiple directions towards which the team could have been taken.  Candidates who may have shined in a “public session” may not have done so well in the closed sessions. 
The set up at the facility put the media at a long table behind the first set of team benches and the parents/high school coaches on portable bleachers behind them.  Both groups struggled to see action on the far court which was on the other side (parallel) to the court in front of us.  One suggestion for future trials in these young age groups (U16/U17) came from media and parents.  They ask that for all “public” sessions have the four groups rotated for each mini-session so that about half the time any one player would be drilling or playing on the near (far more observable) court.   As it was, some players seemed to spend significantly more time on the less observable far court.  Also, by rotating it keeps the players on the move and perhaps a bit more focused! 

Roster Chart Courtesy of USA Basketball

Candidates (52) breakdown:  by age, class, club circuit, states {Credit to Jason Key of Premier Basketball} 

Age as of tryout: 

14 - 10 

15 – 26 

16 – 16 

By class: 

2025 – 21  

2026 – 26 

2027 – 4 

2028 – 1  

By club circuit: 


Adidas – 12 

Under Armour – 8 

Select 40 – 8 

Others – 5 

By State: 

TX - 9 

CA – 6 

4 states – 3 each 

7 states – 2 each 

11 states – 1 each  

The USA U16 team by club circuit: 


4 Under Armour 

3 Adidas 

1 Select 40

Making these cuts is not easy! 

Being on the selections committee is both a great honor and burden as the individuals had very little knowledge of most players’ “rep” coming in. The media (including me) do not interact with them other than to say hello (so to speak).  Thus, those picked were chosen on what was shown during these few days and not who was getting honors as a high school player or offers from college X, Y or Z.  When the dust settled, the committee should be commended for putting a creditable team together given who was placed in front of them as candidates.  

The calendar could hurt the USA in this U16/U17 rotation 

This year’s team is much younger in terms of high school experience than the group which dominated the U16/U17 rotation in 2021/2022 (9 sophomores; 3 freshmen) to this year’s (4 sophomores; 8 freshmen).  As it turns out for the 2022-2023 sophomore class (2025), so many of the very top players (including three or four potential starters if a few months younger) were not age eligible (born on or after Jan 1, 2007).  This will carry over again for the U17 next year. 

On the plus side, with another year a few more uninvited players of this year may become factors and some of those cut this year may move past those just chosen.  Thus everyone (made team or cut) needs to keep working to get better!   
Bottom lines:  

The depth in available USA talent far exceeds other nations in age eligible players (in spite of the above) particularly in the Americas.   Other than Canada, there sadly is little competition for the USA amongst other nations in the FIBA Americas U16 due to a lack of interest/financial support in developing girls’ basketball talent in the rest of the Americas.  The truth is the greatest danger of defeat to a USA U16 team would likely come from a second USA U16 team.  The real test for this rotation will be in the U17 World’s next year.   

Team composition 

Perhaps due to calendar issues mentioned above, regular media attendees to USA U16/U17 trials felt the year’s group of candidates did not possess the depth of elite talent (still most were Power 5 prospects) of recent prior U16 rotations.  For this crop, the depth of highest quality in the candidates present was seen as being in the forward (4/3) area with limitations at the center position (normal issue).  What was more unusual was the questions around the guard slots (particularly point).  There were an ample number of point guards (of future Power Five quality) present but most were relatively small.  Traditionally, big guards (less likely to be posted up by European opposition) are more desired.  In keeping with the above, all final selections are at least 5-9 (see roster above) with 10 6-1 or above.  Also, perhaps going with experience, none of the few outstanding players in the 2027/2028 classes made this team not to say that those older players taken were currently less qualified.       

Top standouts amongst those making the team 

Without going into details for the four sessions attended, from this observer the most continually productive were Jerzy Robinson and McKenna Woliczko (see team roster above). For 2026, ESPN HoopGurlz has them respectively #1 and #4 in the class and MaxPreps had them as Co-freshmen of the Year.  Robinson is one of those coveted tall guards with a variety of scoring skills, while Woliczko is “rebound, run to other end, score primarily in lower paint (great finisher near rim) and repeat.”   Two others who could be in this conversation are Addison Bjorn, a combo guard continually active at both ends, and Trinity Jones, a highly skilled forward who can hurt the opponent on the perimeter and in the key.  For 2026, HoopGurlz has Bjorn #8 in and Jones #6.  Both were MaxPreps Freshmen All-Americans.  In total, the eight freshmen were amongst HoopGurlz top 12 in 2026.  With so many of the very top 2025 too old for this U16 team, players (total four) ranked by HoopGurlz as low as #20 made the final roster.

How to get selected to try out? 

This is one question that comes up from time to time.  One must remember only a select few (I would recommend USA Basketball aiming for 60.) get to try out.  To be blunt, if a player is not receiving high school all-state honors and/or Power 5 offers (at least strong interest) they should not be expected to be invited to this.  Again, this is not a teaching camp and if not a direct invitee (whose way is paid for), this can be an expensive trip.  Players/coaches/parents can go online and apply to attend or contact USA Basketball for more information. 

The mini-camp 

At this past NCAA Women’s Final Four weekend, a minicamp (likely to be held around that time next year) was used to screen applicants for this May’s tryouts.  Going forward, the question is “should this be a place to bring players already in the USA Basketball system or new applicants?”  In talking to media/scouts, the feeling is a combination of the two.  The best reason for this might be to give evaluators present something known to compare with the unknown (new applicants).      

Tips for succeeding at USA U16 Trials 

While on site, I was told the Olympic Training Center is on the grounds of a former US Air Force base.  With this in mind, candidates should approach this challenge as if each was a military recruit.  With so much to choose from, no matter how good a candidate is, USA Basketball can pass on you for a multitude of reasons including skills, effort, attitude and punctuality! 

1. Be on time (show up at least five minutes early for everything)! 

2. Military type responses (without the rigidity): Yes sir; no sir: sir, I do not understand; no excuse sir (or ma'am if female spoken with).  Be vocal but be courteous and respectful to EVERYONE including all staff working at the Olympic Training Center even if not involved with the trials!   

3. Play hard at both ends. Good defense including deflections is noticed.  Hustle everywhere and be positive!! 

4. Stay focused doing what is asked and do not tune out running the court.  Run hard every trip.  You do not know when a committee rep may be watching YOU! 

5. Be aggressive but willing to share the ball. Play under control and avoid dumb mistakes.  Yes, it is a fine line! 

6. Where possible, play to your strengths.  If a strong driver, do not take a lot of threes (and miss). 

7. Showing good skills (handles [for guards even more so], shooting range, passing, finishing with the proper hand [left on left side of rim]) will help get you positive reviews     

8. For posts, rebound like your life depends on it! 

No losers from Trials if viewed correctly! 

One high school coach told me that failing to make this team can be a positive.  I have been told that USA Basketball will send any ‘cut’ candidate a note [perhaps brief] containing information as to why they were cut if formally requested.  Do note USA Basketball will not publicly discuss why any one player did not make a team [Media can speculate!].   Remember the goal of Trials is to choose a team to represent the country.     

Being cut can make a player realize that they have more to work on despite the accolades (all-state honors; college scholarship offers) previously received.   Navigating bumps in the road is a part of growing up as a player and as a person! 
Possible ways to improve the process 

One must understand that the staff for the women’s side of USA Basketball is two-deep, thus limited in what they can do themselves.  College coaches have told me that they are approached for names of quality candidates for these young teams but often they are just learning many of these names themselves.  As such a young group, the U16 is the easiest team where a quality player can be missed as to this May tryout.    

One thing I would recommend to USA Basketball is asking for lists of names from the elite national middle school camps (even if USA Basketball reps cannot personally attend) as a basis going forward.  Hopefully, all would be willing to help with this matter.   Obviously, public lists such as on ESPN HoopGurlz and MaxPreps All-American selections are other online sources of names many of whom may already be known.

The women’s staff at USA Basketball is relatively new.   The U16/U17 rotation likely will take more effort to ferret out all the top candidates compared to older groups where the cream has had time to rise to the top.   From a big picture view, it is more understandable to pass on a quality candidate at Trials than not to have known about them. 

Never too late to invite 

In recent years (perhaps due to Covid-19 restrictions) high quality candidates appear to have been missed as to these U16 tryouts. Sometimes these individuals may have been discovered in the April/May period after deadlines were past.  My advice is for a very strong candidate there should be no “deadlines” prior to the camp itself.  This happened some years ago with a player (then very young) who is now on the US Olympic team.  

Avoid complacency! 

With USA women dominating the U17 (winning five of the six FIBA World titles since the event’s inception) and U19 (winning eight out of 10 FIBA World titles from 2001), human nature can lead one to think the USA will almost always win regardless of who is sent.  Let fear of the upset and striving for excellence be driving forces going forward!