Christyn Williams’ quest for a second gold medal begins Saturday in the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women in Cividale del Friuli and Udine, Italy.
Williams, who earned a bronze for Team USA last summer on the U17 World Cup Team in Zaragoza, Spain and a gold earlier this month in the Women’s 3x3 U18 World Cup Team in Chengdu, China, is the youngest player on USA’s U19 squad.
She is one of only three on the USA roster with previous international experience. Others are Crystal Dangerfield, who plays for Connecticut, and Joyner Holmes (Texas).
Williams averaged 11.9 points (second on the team), four rebounds and 1.3 assists in U17 play last summer.
According to USA Today High School Sports, Williams is the No. 1 overall player in espnW’s Class of 2018 rankings and the only high school player on the U19 squad.
Williams, who is keeping a blog for USA Today during her U19 experience, reported blurry vision from an eye infection, for which she was receiving medication, during training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
“We’ve really improved since the first day,” she wrote on the blog. “Offensively, we’re really executing, and defensively, we’re getting a lot of stops. The grown men we scrimmage every day are really good for us and really competitive so it’s helpful. I’ve always played against guys. Guys are more physical, so it’s better to play against the guys than girls because once you get to girls it’s so much easier.”
She wrote of her U19 expectations for herself.
“We haven’t talked about it, but they expect me to be a scorer,” she wrote. “I think that’s understood, and of course, everybody has to play good defense.”
According to USA Basketball, Williams said composure would be key for the Italy tournament.
“You have to keep your composure no matter the circumstances,” she said. “You have your ups and downs, but if you can keep it together, it will all be fine. That goes with everything in regards to a team. We are sisters and we have to do this together.”
She said team camp July 8-14 prior to leaving for Europe was important.
“Your team and your relationships are very important, because you’re battling together as a unit,” Williams said. “We have to build that chemistry in this short amount of time. Team ball is very important to winning these competitions, I think.”
USA U19 head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, who coaches at Pittsburgh, told USA Basketball she had seen great improvement during training camp.
“We’re getting good looks and capitalizing on opportunities offensively,” she said. “Then defensively, that’s the biggest growth we’ve seen. These players are very talented and skilled offensively. But defensively, getting them to play together as a team from day one until now, we are a different team. Our ball pressure, weak-side help, rebounding, finishing our defense have all gotten better. I’m very pleased with the improvement we have seen on the defensive end.”
The Americans, seeking a seventh consecutive gold medal in U19 competition, will play a three-game exhibition tournament against Italy, Latvia and Spain prior to tournament kickoff. Team USA beat Spain during its exhibition opener Monday, 84-72, ending on a 12-0 run after Spain tied the game in the fourth quarter. Williams was 0-for-2 from the field and had one rebound and one foul in 11 minutes.
In the main tournament, USA will join Mali, China and Italy in preliminary round Group A. The Americans will open against Mali on Saturday.
Group B will include Egypt, Puerto Rico, Russia and Spain; Group C features Canada, France, Latvia and South Korea; Group D includes Australia, Hungary, Japan and Mexico.
Team USA will play preliminary round games against China on Sunday and Italy on Tuesday, July 25.
The 16-team medal round will begin July 26 with quarterfinals July 28, semifinals July 29 and the gold medal game July 30.