Posted: 1:01 pm Monday, May 21st, 2012
By Matt Porter
Dwyer girls basketball coach Jeryl Akins has been floating high above the ground for two days.
One of his star players, junior Kai James, called Akins on Sunday to tell him she made the U.S. women’s Under-17 national team that will compete for the world championship in Amsterdam this August.
“She told me and I hollered and she hollered. It was great. It still hasn’t hit her yet, I don’t think,” Akins said. “It’s unreal.”
James, 16, was selected on Sunday following three days of tryouts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. She is one of 12 players who will play for the U.S. at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship on Aug. 17-26 at Amsterdam’s Sporthallen Zuid.
“I was very, very surprised,” she said. “There was so much competition under one roof, so it was hard to stand out. I just try to do what I do.”
She is the only player from Florida on the roster and the first women’s basketball player from Palm Beach County to represent the U.S. since Benjamin alum Erlana Larkins, who won gold at the 2007 Pan American Games and now plays for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.
“It’s huge because now I not only represent myself, I represent Florida, Palm Beach County, Dwyer High School, my travel team [Miami Suns] and everyone else who has helped me get here,” James said.
Team USA is the defending U17 world champions, having won the inaugural U17 Women’s World Championship in 2010. James is one of five first-time players on this year’s roster.
James, a 6-foot-4 post player, has been a dominant presence in the paint for Dwyer for two seasons. As a junior, she was a Florida Association of Basketball Coaches all-state selection and first-team Post All-Area pick. Miami, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and North Carolina are among the numerous programs recruiting her.
Her brother, 6-foot-11 Dwyer senior and North Carolina recruit Joel James, will try out for the U.S. men’s U18 team from June 5-12 in Colorado Springs. He is one of 24 high school players invited to try out for the U18 men’s team that will compete at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Brazil in mid-June.
If both Kai and Joel James made the national teams, they would go on a short list of siblings to represent the U.S. internationally in basketball. Imani Stafford (current U19, 2010 U17 team) and her brother, Washington Wizards forward JaVale McGee (2010 World Championship training camp) were the most recent. Cheryl Miller (1984 Olympic gold) and Reggie Miller (1996) are the most famous.
The Jameses could be the first pair of siblings to play for Team USA at the same time. Monday afternoon, USA Basketball was researching that possibility.
“It would be amazing. I could see that being a headline somewhere,” Kai James joked.
2012 USA Women’s U17 World Championship Team
Pos: Name, height, year, high school
G: Lindsay Allen, 5-8, 2013, St. John’s College (DC)
F: Oderah Chidom, 6-3, 2013, Bishop O’Dowd (Calif.)
G: Kaela Davis, 6-2, 2013, Buford (Ga.)
G: Diamond DeShields, 6-1, 2013, Norcross (Ga.)
G: Rebecca Greenwell, 6-1, 2013, Owensboro (Ky.)
G: Linnae Harper, 5-7, 2013, Whitney Young (Ill.)
F: Kai James, 6-4, 2013, Dwyer
F: Erica McCall, 6-3, 2013, Ridgeview (Calif.)
F: Taya Reimer, 6-3, 2013, Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.)
C: Mercedes Russell, 6-5, 2013 Springfield (Ore.)
G/F: Brianna Turner, 6-3, 2014, Manvel (Texas)
G: Jessica Washington, 5-8, 2013, Jenks (Okla.)
Head Coach: Jill Rankin Schneider, Monterey (Texas) Assistants: Gail Hook, Monarch (Colo.); Letitia Hughley, Mott CC (Mich.).