On The Road With Coach Graves: USA Basketball Blog 2
SPOKANE, Wash. – This summer, Gonzaga University women’s basketball head coach Kelly Graves will once again represent the United States of America as an assistant coach of the USA Basketball Women’s U19 Championship Team. Graves and the squad will go for gold at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women held in Klaipeda and Panevėys, Lithuania, July 18-28. During his month long adventure with the U19’s – which kicked off July 1 in Colorado Springs, Colo., with training camp - Graves will blog and give Gonzaga fans an inside look into coaching for USA Basketball. With his impeccable wit that shines through in his blog, you won’t want to miss one!
On The Road With Coach Graves – USA Basketball Blog 2 (July 15, 2013)
We just packed up and left the Canary Islands for Vilnius, Lithuania for the 2013 U19 World Championships. Going for Gold, that's our goal--and isn't a Gold medal the dream of almost every player and coach – it’s certainly been a dream of mine.
The Canary Islands were really cool; we were in Lanzarote. It's a completely dry island--hardly any vegetation at all. My guess is that's it has 365 days of sunshine each year. The beaches are rocky in most parts - lava rock - but there were some sandy beaches. The Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean and only a few miles from Africa, in fact when the winds kicked up one day, we were getting dust from the Sahara Desert.
While in the Canary Islands we played three games against three of the top teams in the world; all potential medalists at next week’s World Championships. Our first game was against perennial powerhouse Australia. (It was our first game together; they had already played 9 or 10 games together). We were rusty during the first three quarters and behind most of the game but played great defense down the stretch and won 71-66 - an amazing win.
We played host Spain in game two in front of a raucous partisan crowd. Spain has won silver at the last two World Championships and their national program has been on a recent roll having just won the Eurobasket Senior Championship and the U20 World Championship. Basketball is huge in Spain (both men's and women's), still second to soccer though. Our team was incredible, playing with passion and intensity at both ends of the floor and we won by 29 points. Players posed for pictures and signed autographs after the game and enjoyed definite rock star status for most of the trip.
We finished the tourney by defeating Canada by 20. It was great to play against future Zag Emma Wolfram who had a solid game against us with seven points and a bunch of rebounds. In fact Emma had a great tournament and my USA players were really impressed with her. She is such a smart and hard-working player with great skills and she is going to be 6’5”tall all game long. Expect big things from that young woman.
I really like the Canadian coaching staff, all of whom are from British Columbia or Alberta (they think the world of Emma). I got to know the Australian coaches well too and have promised to get together next spring when my wife Mary and I head down under for former Zag great Kelly Bowen’s wedding. They are familiar with Kayla Standish and say she's having an amazing career playing in Australia. Zags all over!!!
Anyway, we left the Canaries late and flew to Madrid and spent the night there and then made our way to Frankfurt, Germany (tried to call Sunny who is home for this month--again Zags all over!) and now am on a flight to Lithuania. We get up early tomorrow and drive three hours to scrimmage France, and then we open World Championship play on Thursday against the host team. Can't believe it's almost here!
I feel honored to be representing the USA and pray that we can play to the best of our abilities and represent our country and sport well. It's an incredible group of talented young women, truly the best of the best our sport has to offer. We are getting great leadership from Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck from UConn as well as stellar play from Final 4 MVP Breanna Stewart and national freshman of the year Bashaara Graves from Tennessee (what a great name don't you think?) All the new players are blending in and starting to find their niche including the young high school players we have.
My creative juices aren't really flowing right now (lack of quality sleep) so I promise to share some of our stories next time. Haven’t been in touch with my Zags team much but please tell them hi for me when you see them--they're probably not reading my blog but I miss them a lot and can't wait for next season. We are almost ready to announce our schedule. Stay tuned. I miss my family a ton!! I love and miss you guys! Bye for now! GO USA!!!
You can also follow Coach Graves on twitter at www.twitter.com/kgzag and get all the latest news about the Zag women’s basketball program on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ZagWBB or on twitter at www.twitter.com/ZagWBB.