August 6, 2021 

Who to watch at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup

Team USA to tip off against Italy on Saturday in Hungary event

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USA head coach (middle) Cori Close (UCLA) and assistant coaches (left) Aaron Johnston (South Dakota State) and (right) Joni Taylor (Georgia). (Photo credit: USA Basketball)

The eyes of the basketball world might be on Saitama Super Arena this weekend, but there is another major international tournament that gets underway.

The FIBA Women’s Under-19 World Cup tips off in Debrecen, Hungary, on Saturday, where the Olympians of tomorrow will vie for gold, silver and bronze, concluding on Aug. 15.

The U.S. is the top-ranked team in the 16-squad field and reigning event champions. It opens with Italy on Saturday, then Australia on Sunday and Egypt on Tuesday.

UCLA’s Cori Close coaches the team that boasts some names that will already be familiar to college basketball fans, such as Caitlin Clark of Iowa and Diamond Johnson of North Carolina State.

“I think first of all, it is the power of privilege that we understand that wearing USA across our chest is something to have a deep sense of gratitude about,” Close told the USA Basketball communications department. “I think when you really understand how fortunate you are to be in this position, then you are able to say, ‘Hey, what am I able to sacrifice for the sake of the team? How can I make a play for somebody else? How do I make somebody else better?’ Really it just starts with knowing it’s not about you. It’s about the three letters that we represent and how we go about to compete for our country.”

Sonia Citron of The Ursuline School in Scarsdale, N.Y., is a 6’1 guard who is committed to Notre Dame in the fall. She was an All-Tournament Team member for the 2019 FIBA Americas Under-16 Championship in Chile, where she scored 13 points per game en route to the gold medal.

“Everyone says that the U19 World Cup is the hardest to win,” Citron told USA Basketball Communications. “So, I am just really looking forward to playing games. All the things that the coaches are teaching us, it’s just making me a better player and the gold medal habits that they just keep telling us to think about. So, I think in general I am just going to become a better player by the coaching, playing with the best girls in the country, all that.”

Azzi Fudd continues to add to her USA Basketball resume, which includes two gold medals. (Photo credit: USA Basketball)

Stanford recruit Lauren Betts, a 6’7 center, is returning for her senior year of high school in Colorado, while Amari DeBerry (UConn), Sania Feagin (South Carolina), Azzi Fudd (UConn), Payton Verhulst (Louisville) and Jersey Wolfenbarger (Arkansas) will come to college campuses this autumn. The U.S. roster also includes college sophomores Te-Hina Paopao of Oregon, Jewel Spear of Wake Forest and Lauren Ware of Arizona.

There is plenty of talent to watch on opposition rosters as well. Sika Kone of Mali averaged 15 points and 14 rebounds as a 17-year-old at the 2019 Under-19 World Cup in Bangkok. Anastasiia Kosu of Russia was the MVP of the Under-16 European Championships as a 14-year-old and plays professionally for Dynamo Kursk. Australia’s Jade Melbourne shot 50 percent from the field in the WNBL last season.

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, the ISU and World Athletics. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 60 countries.

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