Panthers’ Sedona Prince named to USA U18 National Basketball team


By Keith Sparks

Liberty Hill senior Sedona Prince added another notch to her ever-growing belt of basketball-related accomplishments on Monday as she was named to the USA U18 National Team after a weekend of team trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Prince was one of 12 players selected from a pool of 35 athletes that participated in the team trials over the weekend. It’s her third selection to the USA National Team after previously being selected to the U16 and U17 teams, both of which she won bronze medals with.

Prince’s weekend of training consisted of three-on-three tournaments, scrimmages, and other drills along with the best basketball players in the country. A committee of five individuals from the USA Basketball organization evaluated each of the 35 players over the weekend based on talent, effort, and attitude off the court.

The committee’s goal was to select the 12 players that they believe will represent their country at the highest level and have the ability to mesh with each other in a matter of days before they head to Mexico for the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship the first week of August.

Prince said one of the hardest parts about building this team is being able to play well together after less than two weeks of training camp.

“We have training camp in late July, and that’s pretty much the only time we have together is those two weeks,” Prince said. “Those two weeks are definitely going to be crazy, because it’s very difficult to try to get a team together. That’s why the committee has such a hard job. They have to decide who can be the best team in a short amount of time.”

This isn’t the first time Prince will be playing with most of her Team USA teammates, though, as most are familiar faces from the 2018 All-American game and her previous stints with Team USA. Some of her teammates, Prince said, are her best friends, so she’s enjoying their last opportunities to play together before they join the collegiate ranks.

“It’s kind of our last time to play together, because now we’re all going to college and we’re going our separate ways,” Prince said. “Some of my best friends are there and I got to play with them, so it was really awesome just being there and having that experience and building those bonds even closer. Now, especially my friends that did make the team with me, it’ll be even better, because I’ll get to continue to play with them.”

For many high-level athletes, playing for their country’s national team is the ultimate goal, and Prince is entering her third such opportunity. After coming away with two bronze medals as a U16 and U17 player, Prince has her sights set on gold.

“I get to represent my country, which is really awesome,” Prince said. “I didn’t make the team last year for U19, so I kind of wanted to prove something this year, coming back. Representing my country is the ultimate goal for me and really any athlete, so making it was one of my biggest goals for this year. Now that I have it, it’s pretty amazing and I’m pretty relieved. I’m excited to try to make gold, because I do have two bronze medals, which isn’t the best, but I just want to win gold.”

The USA U18 National Team will get its first crack at international competition in Mexico during the first week of August at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, where they’ll face two of the top teams in the world in Mexico and Canada, among others, to see who qualifies for next year’s competition.

Prince and her Team USA teammates will be coached by Jeff Walz, Head Women’s Basketball Coach at the University of Louisville.

The team will also include Aijha Blackwell (Whitfield School/Berkeley, Mo.); Jenna Brown (The Lovett School/Smyrna, Ga.); Queen Egbo (Travis H.S./Houston, Texas); Nazarah Hillmon-Baker (Gilmour Academy/Cleveland, Ohio); Rhyne Howard (Bradley Central H.S./Cleveland, Tenn.); Olivia Nelson-Ododa (Winder-Barrow H.S./Winder, Ga.); Jordan Nixon (Mary Louis Academy/New York, N.Y.); Anaya Peoples (Schlarman H.S./Danville, Ill.); Abby Prohaska (Lakota West H.S./Liberty Township, Ohio); NaLyssa Smith (East Central H.S./Converse, Texas); and Christyn Williams (Central Arkansas Christian School/Little Rock, Ark.), according to a press release from USA Basketball.

“One of the best things you can do as a top athlete is just be around other really good athletes,” Prince said.

Looking at the roster, Prince will have an opportunity to do just that come July.