July 15, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s) is one of 12 players chosen for the 2007 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship Team, it was announced Sunday afternoon by the USA Basketball Women’s Collegiate Committee. Lechlitner, who will be making her first appearance with a USA Basketball squad, is the third Notre Dame player in the past four years to be selected for a spot on a USA Basketball team, following in the footsteps of gold medal winners Ruth Riley (2004 Athens Olympics) and Megan Duffy (2005 World University Games).
“This has already been such an amazing experience and I’m so grateful to USA Basketball for the chance to be a part of this year’s U19 World Championship Team,” Lechlitner said. “There’s a lot of pride and responsibility that goes with putting on the uniform of your country, and I know everyone on this team is going to give everything they have to make sure we bring home the gold.”
“We’re so thrilled for Lech to have this opportunity to represent our program and our university with the USA U19 World Championship Team,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “She has worked extremely hard during the offseason to put herself in this position and it’s wonderful to see her rewarded for her efforts. We’re all really looking forward to seeing her and the rest of the U.S. team go for the gold at the end of the month.”
Lechlitner emerged from a pool of 14 finalists, ages 19-and-under (born on or after Jan. 1, 1988), all of whom convened in Washington D.C., on July 12 to open training camp. She is one of three collegians on the ’07 USA U19 National Team roster, along with Michigan State’s Allyssa DeHaan and Virginia’s Monica Wright. The other members of the 2007 USA U19 World Championship Team are: Victoria Baugh (Sacramento, Calif./Sacramento); Angie Bjorklund (Spokane, Wash./University); Amy Jaeschke (Wilmette, Ill./New Trier); Jantel Lavender (Cleveland, Ohio/Cleveland Central Catholic); Italee Lucas (Las Vegas, Nev./Centennial); Maya Moore (Lawrenceville, Ga./Collins Hill); Kayla Pedersen (Fountain Hills, Ariz./Red Mountain); Jasmine Thomas (Fairfax, Va./Oakton); and Krystal Thomas (Orlando, Fla./The First Academy).
Lechlitner is the fifth Notre Dame women’s basketball player tapped to compete for her country on the international stage. Besides the recent gold medal turns by Riley and Duffy, Riley made prior USA Basketball appearances in 1998 (Select Team) and 1999 (World University Games Team), as did former Irish All-Americans Katryna Gaither (two teams, two medals) and Beth Morgan (four teams, three medals) from 1996-99. All told, Notre Dame players have earned nine medals in international competition, including four golds.
Lechlitner also made a bit of local history on Sunday, becoming the first South Bend-area women’s basketball player ever chosen for a USA Basketball team. In fact, only two other basketball players from the Michiana area have ever donned the red, white & blue — Valparaiso High product Roger Harden suited up for the 1985 U.S. World University Games Team that earned a silver medal, while Concord High legend (and future NBA All-Star) Shawn Kemp played on the gold medal-winning 1994 U.S. World Championship Team.
Following two more days of practices at the Washington Mystics Practice Facility in the Verizon Center, Lechlitner and the USA U19 World Championship Team will depart Tuesday for the Canary Islands (Spain) to compete in a set of exhibition games against Australia (Thursday), Brazil (Friday) and Spain (Saturday) — all three contests will tip at 1 p.m. ET. The U.S. team is led by DePaul head coach Doug Bruno, with Prairie View A&M head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and Northern Illinois head coach (and former Notre Dame assistant) Carol Owens completing the USA U19 World Championship coaching staff.
The U.S. opens Group B play in the 16-nation FIBA U19 World Championship For Women on July 26 against Ivory Coast in Bratislava, Slovakia, before facing China on July 27 and concluding preliminary round play on July 28 against Lithuania. The second round will be contested July 30-Aug.1, the quarterfinals are slated for Aug. 3, semifinals will be held Aug. 4 and the gold medal will be contested Aug. 5. Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, the tournament is held every four years and was first held in 1985. USA women’s teams are 32-10 in the U19/Junior World Championships, capturing gold with an 8-0 record most recently in 2005.
— ND —