July 10, 2022 

Who to watch for at the FIBA Under-17 World Cup

The U.S. opened the competition with a win over African Under-16 champion Mali on Saturday

The next competition for the U.S. women’s national program is the FIBA Under-17 World Cup, which tipped off on Saturday in Debrecen, Hungary. The gold medal game will be on July 17.

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The U.S. is in Group D with Germany, Mali and New Zealand. The 16-team field also boasts: host Hungary, Mexico, Belgium and Japan in Group A; Australia, France, Argentina and Slovenia in Group B; and Egypt, Canada, Spain and Korea in Group C. 

Sue Phillips is the coach of the U.S. team, which has won four of the five Under-17 World Cups since the event’s inception in 2010, including the most recent edition in Minsk, Belarus, in 2018. She retains many of the players she guided to the gold medal at last year’s FIBA Americas Under-16 Championship in Leon, Mexico. Phillips is entering her 28th season as coach of California’s Archbishop Mitty High School and was also the Under-17 World Cup coach in 2014.

“On any given day, any one of our 12 players will play a significant role for our team,” Phillips said. “We have talent and versatility. Our strength is our ability to get different [contributions] from the five who are out there.”

Judea “JuJu” Watkins was the MVP of the Under-16 team, averaging 20 points and five steals. She scored 28 points in the gold medal win over Canada. The 6’1 forward will be a senior at Sierra Canyon High School this season.

“Watkins is back from last season’s Under-16 team without missing a step,” Phillips said. “Her playmaking and distributing has improved both on and off the ball, and she has a terrific nose for the ball.”

Jada Williams, a 5’8 guard from San Diego, has committed to UCLA after her 2023 graduation. She was named to the All-Star Five at the event in Leon.

“Williams was the MVP of the 3X3 team,” Phillips added. “She is talented on all three levels of the game [offense, defense and transition].”

Sunaja Agara (No. 9), Mackenly Randolph (No. 5) and Morgan Cheli (No. 13) are in search of the Under-17 gold medal. (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)

Also on the team are Sunaja Agara (a Stanford commit from Minnesota), Madison Booker (from Mississippi), Jaloni Cambridge (a 5’6 guard from Nashville), Morgan Cheli (who Phillips coaches at Archbishop Mitty), Breya Cunningham (a 6’4 center from San Diego headed to the University of Arizona), Jadyn Donovan (from Maryland), Hannah Hildago (from New Jersey), Mackenly Randolph (also from Sierra Canyon), Kennedy Umeh (a 6’4 junior from Maryland) and Mikaylah Williams (an LSU recruit from Bossier City, La.).

The U.S. team listens to head coach Sue Phillips. (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)

A committee selected the 12-player roster out of 40 players invited to a camp. The selection committee is separate from the one that chooses the players for the senior national team. The players had a week of trials, then one week of camp. Three days of preparation in Spain followed with the Spanish, French and Australian national teams.

French 6’6 center Dominique Malonga was the MVP of the Under-16 European Challenger, scoring nearly 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds per game. Annika Soltau of Germany, who is 6’4, nearly mirrored Malonga’s numbers in the event with 17.4 and 11.4. Hungarian forward Petra Toman averaged more than 17 points per game as well. Jana Elafly of Egypt led the Under-16 African Championships with more than 18 points per game. Australia’s 6’4 Isla Juffermans was the leading scorer and rebounder of the Under-16 Asian Championships. She averaged 19.7 and 12.2, with a 37/15 performance in a semifinal win over Korea. Rokiatou Berthe was the MVP of the African Under-16 event for champion Mali.

The U.S. opened with Mali on Saturday, getting a comfortable 78-49 win behind 12 points and six rebounds from Randolph. Booker chipped in four points and a game-high nine rebounds. The Americans will play New Zealand on Sunday and Germany on Tuesday.

“All three are really dangerous and confident opponents,” Phillips said. “It will be great for our development.”

The U.S. defeated France in the final of the 2018 Under-17 World Cup, 92-40. Jordan Horston, now with the University of Tennessee, was named MVP. South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, Stanford’s Haley Jones, Shyla Heal (Australia) and Iliana Rupert (France) joined Horston on the All-Tournament team.

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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