KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee rising senior Rae Burrell is among 20 of the nation’s top collegiate players who have accepted invitations to attend the 2021 USA Basketball Women’s AmeriCup Team trials.
Invitations to the trials, which will be held April 18-21 at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, were issued by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee and USA Women’s Senior National Team Committee.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, no media or guests will be allowed to view trials sessions. USA Basketball will provide media with images and b-roll for non-commercial, editorial use on a daily basis.
The 20 athletes who have accepted an invitation to attend trials are: Grace Berger (Indiana/Louisville, Ky.); Aliyah Boston (South Carolina/St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.); Jakia Brown-Turner (NC State/Oxen Hill, Md.); Burrell (Tennessee/Las Vegas, Nev.); Veronica Burton (Northwestern/Newton, Mass.); Zia Cooke (South Carolina/Toledo, Ohio); Elissa Cunane (NC State/Summerfield, N.C.); Destanni Henderson (South Carolina/Fort Meyers, Fla.); Naz Hillmon (Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio); Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.); Ashley Joens (Iowa State/Iowa City, Iowa); Haley Jones (Stanford/Santa Cruz, Calif.); Elizabeth Kitley (Virginia Tech/Summerfield, N.C.); Diamond Miller (Maryland/Somerset, N.J.); Ashley Owusu (Maryland/Woodbridge, Va.); Khayla Pointer (Louisiana State/Marietta, Ga.); Sedona Prince (Oregon/Liberty Hill, Texas); NaLyssa Smith (Baylor/Converse, Texas); Jenna Staiti (Georgia/Cumming, Ga.); and Hailey Van Lith (Louisville/Wenatchee, Wash.).
A 6-foot-1 guard/forward, Burrell was an All-SEC Second Team selection in 2021, helping Tennessee to a 17-8 overall record, a third-place finish in the SEC at 9-4, an NCAA appearance as a No. 3 seed and final national rankings of No. 14 and 16 in the AP and USA TODAY Coaches polls, respectively. She averaged 16.8 ppg. and 4.6 rpg., ranking second on the team in scoring and fourth in rebounding as the only Lady Vol to start all 25 contests.
Burrell scored in double figures in 22 of 25 games, fired in 15 or more points 17 times and hit 20+ on seven occasions, leading the team in the first two categories and ranking second in the third. She shot 45.8 percent on field goals, 40.2 on three-pointers and 82.5 percent from the free-throw line, all easily career bests. She went a perfect 16 for 16 at the charity stripe in the final four minutes of games.
“The AmeriCup is a national level competition with some of the best players in the Americas,” said Jennifer Rizzotti, chair of the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee. “Being a part of the staff in 2019 gave me a taste of the intensity level of this tournament and the Olympic-level players in it. We need to bring the best players available, and that’s who our committee has worked to identify. Because we are unable to bring WNBA players, we will rely on the best returning college players.
Obviously, this is a very talented group with good junior national team level USA Basketball experience, but they will learn quickly the difference when playing against pros. So, we’ll need to find the 12 players who are up to the challenge of helping us in our dual goal of claiming gold and advancing to the 2022 World Cup qualifying tournament.”
USA National Team head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina) will serve as head coach of the USA AmeriCup Team, and she will be assisted by University of Arizona head coach Adia Barnes and Rizzotti, 2021 USA National Team assistant coach.
Ten nations from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean will take part in the 2021 AmeriCup, held June 11-19 in Puerto Rico. The top four finishing teams will advance to compete in one of four 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournaments in hopes of earning one of the 12 spots in the 2022 FIBA World Cup field. Australia, host of the 2022 World Cup, and the 2020 Olympic champion, earn automatic berths to the World Cup but will be required to participate in the qualifying process.
The USA has played in five previous FIBA AmeriCups, historically used as a qualifier for an Olympics or FIBA World Cup, including 1989, 1993, 1997, 2007 and 2019. The U.S. has captured three gold medals and one silver medal while compiling a 24-7 all-time record. In the two most recent AmeriCups in which the USA has competed, the U.S. women were a perfect 11-0 and won a pair of gold medals.