The modest would always say they didn’t expect the recognition.
But Maryland women’s basketball sophomores Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller really didn’t expect receiving the invitation to the USA Basketball Women’s AmeriCup Team trials in South Carolina this past Sunday through Wednesday. They figured that kind of thing wasn’t happening in a year like this.
The USA team will face nine other national teams from North, Central and South America in Puerto Rico from June 11-19, hoping to become one of the four that advances to the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament and then the 2022 FIBA World Cup in Australia.
Twenty top women’s college basketball players earned the honor, 10 of whom have garnered 21 gold medals for USA Basketball teams in the past. Three other Big Ten players made the cut, including Indiana’s Grace Berger, Northwestern’s Veronica Burton and Michigan’s Naz Hillmon. Maryland tied with North Carolina State for the second-most representatives, following host South Carolina, which boasts three players: Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson.
On Wednesday, Miller and Owusu learned they made the final cut to 13.
The team will be led by South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who also serves as the USA National Team head coach.
“I didn’t know they were doing it because of COVID, so, I was shocked. But I was also happy and excited,” Owusu said.
The good and unexpected calls came to Owusu and Miller as they were channeling all their focus into offseason workouts.
“When I found out, I immediately flipped the switch and picked everything up a little bit more than what I was doing. There’s 20 girls, so to be named one out of the 20 is pretty exciting,” said Miller, who’s won two gold medals with USA Basketball teams in the past.
The two sophomores stepped into leadership roles this past season. Owusu and Miller, both co-Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Players and All-Big Ten first-team selections, led the Terps with 17.9 and 17.3 points per game, respectively. Owusu’s average set a record for a Maryland sophomore, and she led the nation’s top scoring offense with an average of 5.9 assists as well.
As they brush shoulders with other team leaders, they’ll embrace that identity they took on this year.
“I’m going to keep doing what I was doing because that’s what got me here,” Miller said.
The two sophomores predict getting coached by Arizona’s Adia Barnes, who’ll serve as the assistant coach for the team, will feel a lot like studying under Terps coach Brenda Frese. Miller watched the same spirited energy radiate from Barnes as she does her own coach. Staley, on the other hand, might be a more laid-back kind of mentor, Miller muses.
Having the chance to learn from those coaches, as well as different players, will benefit the Terps as they head toward their junior and senior seasons.
Miller got a taste of that when she competed alongside Boston, Hillmon, Iowa State’s Ashley Joens and Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith (also trials invitees) to win the FIBA U19 World Cup in 2019 and with Boston and Cooke at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
“Whether I make the team or not, I think just being out there with some of the best players is going to help me grow as a player on the court,” Owusu said. “Being able to listen to different coaches, whether I make the team or not, is going to be a good experience for me, not only as a basketball player, but as a person.”
The all-star trial will serve Owusu and Miller down the road, too, as they leave College Park and land, they hope, among one of the 12 WNBA franchises.
“When you go to the league, everybody on your team is good. This is another great opportunity for us to see where we’re at against the best players in the country,” Miller said. “It’s really exciting and it’s preparing us for our dreams.”