Red, white and Royal: Christ the King star invited to Team USA Trials

Christ the King freshman phenom Natalija Marshall is ready to represent the United States, earning an invitation to the U16 trials later this month.
CNG/Laura Amato
By Laura Amato

Natalija Marshall was named to 2017 USA Women’s U16 National Team trials, an opportunity that she knows could completely change the future of her on-court career. The Christ the King basketball star first got the news in March and she’s fairly certain her excitement hasn’t ebbed since she hung up the phone. “This is probably my biggest accomplishment in my life so far, basketball-wise,” Marshall said. “To be recognized nationally, for playing basketball and doing something that I love is incredible.”

Marshall is one of 35 athletes from across the country who earned an invitation to the trials, which will be held May 25-29. While she’s had a few weeks to let the idea of competing settle, she’s still bordering somewhere close to overwhelmed.

It is, after all, quite a compliment.

“It was a surprise, mostly,” Marshall said of her initial reaction. “A bit anxious, excited, a little scared. It was a mix of emotions, but the excitement was just overwhelming. I’m still so, so excited.”

Of course, Marshall made a name for herself with the Royals this season. The freshman – who transferred into the school at the start of the year – took a few games to find her footing, but once she did, Marshall was all but unstoppable on the court.

She drained shots from just about anywhere, sinking three-pointers with the same ease she drilled bank shots on the block. Her size in the post became a key cog of Christ the King’s defensive attack. Still, Marshall is the first to admit that she wasn’t completely pleased with the way the season ended.

Christ the King came up short of a Brooklyn-Queens championship, falling to eventual CHSAA champion, The Mary Louis Academy, by two points on a last-second play that Marshall has been replaying on a loop since the final buzzer went off.

Now, she’s hoping that this opportunity with Team USA will help erase some of those less-than-pleasant memories.

“After losing by two in the Brooklyn-Queens championship, I think all of us, our confidence was a little down. Now we’re hungrier than ever,” Marshall said.

“This was a sort of gateway to next year,” she added. “I’d say for all of us, not just me. We’re all getting accolades.

“I think we’re all just going to take this into the next year and, hopefully, a championship.”

Marshall is just one of two New York players named to the trials and she’s determined to do her best to, not just represent her state, but her school as well.

“I think a lot of people know Christ the King,” she said. “They know the basketball and what we’ve done, but showing that we’re all here is really important. To represent the school and do the best we can.”

The next few weeks will be a whirlwind of excitement for Marshall – playing with her AAU squad, Exodus, before heading to Colorado for the trials. She can’t deny her excitement, but Marshall is also anxious to prove herself. The invitation was big, but making the team would be even better.

“I’m really excited and looking forward to it,” Marshall said. “It really is just another step towards getting better.”

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