By Joseph Staszewski
Bria Smith remembered how she felt a year ago and prepared for the possibility of disappointment yet again.
The Christ the King guard had missed the cut for the USA U17 National Team last season and with 10 players returning from a club that helped lead the USA U16 team to gold in the 2009 FIBA Americas Championship, there were two spots left on this year’s club. Smith earned one of them.
“I was pretty much shocked, though, because I remember going there last year and going home kind of disappointed,” she said. “So then for me to be on the team this year feels great.”
Instead of hopping on a plane back to New York early last week, Smith, a junior, spent eight days with Team USA in Colorado Springs, Colo., competing against some of the best players in the country. The U17 squad scrimmaged its U18 counterpart for three straight days. Smith said she learned a lot playing with and against that caliber of talent. It did take some time for her to get used to the FIBA rules and the style of play, but they are to her liking.
“It’s a way faster game, it’s a much faster pace, continuous fast breaks,” Smith said. “You only get eight seconds back court, shorter shot clock. It’s just a whole bunch of running and that’s what I like to do anyway. It’s a good fit for me.”
One of the things she is most looking forward to is the traveling. Smith has never been overseas before. On July 5 she begins working out again with the team. They will then travel to Spain to play exhibition games before the world championships. The inaugural tournament will take place from July 16-25 in France.
“I’ve never done it before, so I don’t really know what to expect, but I know that it is going to be fun,” she said.
The travel and time commitment that comes along with making the team will lengthen Smith’s recruiting process since she will be unable to visit schools during July. The New York Post first team All-City selection is considered the No. 3 recruit in the country by scouting services and is receiving interest from a laundry list of elite programs, including UConn, Notre Dame, North Carolina and Ohio State. At first, Smith wanted to choose a school by the beginning of August, but said she will have to wait until the beginning of September now.
Her selection to Team USA further adds to her résumé as one of the best players to come out of the Middle Village school. Smith helped lead the Royals to their record 14th New York State Federation Class AA championship this season and become the fourth player in program history to wear the red, white and blue. Chamique Holdsclaw, Sue Bird and Tina Charles were all a part of USA Basketball at some point in their careers.
“It feels amazing to be even inside the list with those great players,” Smith said.
She admitted to being home sick and happy to be back now. She was welcomed home to the reality when her flight got in at 12:45 a.m. Wednesday morning and she had to take the first part of her English Regents a little more than seven hours later. Even that couldn’t dampen this plane ride that was much different from a year ago.
“It means a lot to me to be chosen because it’s always good to represent your country,” Smith said. “Playing on USA is a big honor.”