Sophomore point guard Crystal Dangerfield spent a part of June talking to her University of Connecticut women's basketball freshman teammates about her experiences from her first collegiate season.
"I tell them my stories from last year and I have a lot of them," Dangerfield said. "I think ... No, I know, it will be different for each of them and it is going to be hard. But I want them to know I'll be there to listen and to talk to them."
The month has changed, but Dangerfield's is in a similar situation as she and freshman Megan Walker head to Colorado Springs, Colorado for a week-long training camp before the United States national team heads to Italy for the FIBA U-19 World Cup. Dangerfield is the only player on the squad that was a part of the 2015 gold-medal winning U-19 team that held off host Russia 78-70 in the final game in Chekhov, Russia.
"It was like the whole country of Russia was in that gym cheering against us," Dangerfield said. "I want my teammates to understand that it is really us against the world. But everybody's excited for the tournament and we know we're going to have to work hard. We're ready to get going."
Team USA begins camp on Saturday at the United States Olympic Training Center. The Americans will travel to Italy on July 15 and participate in a round-robin tournament with the national teams of Italy, Latvia, and Spain July 17-19. On July 20, they will scrimmage France.
The World Cup begins July 22 with Team USA opening Group A pool play against Mali. It will face China on July 23 and Italy on July 25. All teams advance to the round of 16 on July 26. The quarterfinals are July 28, the semifinals July 29 and the bronze and gold-medal games July 30.
"I think we're going to be good," Walker said. "We played well together when we were at the trials in May. We got a feel for what things will be like. I want to be a leader with my experience and by example."
Team USA qualified for the U-19 World Cup by winning the gold medal at the 2016 FIBA Americas U-18 Championships. Only five players from the U-18 team -- Walker, Harvard sophomore Jeannie Boehm, Texas A&M freshman Chennedy Carter. South Carolina sophomore Tyasha Harris, and Oregon sophomore Ruthy Hebard -- are on the U-19 roster. Dangerfield made the U-18 team at trials a year ago but had to withdraw with a hip injury that required surgery.
Walker averaged 9.6 points and 2.8 rebounds a year ago in helping Team USA to a 5-0 record in the U-18 event in Valdivia, Chile.
The Chesterfield, Virginia, native wrapped up a five-week stay in Storrs last Friday, spent taking summer classes while also learning from her upperclassmen teammates.
"They did a good job of showing us the ropes and showing us the way things need to get done," Walker said. "They've given us words of encouragement while also leading by example."
Dangerfield averaged 6.4 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.0 steals in seven games at the 2015 U-19 world championships. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native is seeking her third gold medal to go with the one she also won at the 2013 FIBA Americas U-16 Championships.
A first-place finish in Italy and she would join former UConn players Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, former Baylor guard Alexis Jones, and South Carolina senior A'ja Wilson as the only players with two U-19 gold medals.
"We can do it just by playing hard and playing scrappy," Dangerfield said. "Every team is good and they want to win and, of course, they want to beat the United States. So we have to be ready and bring the energy we need every day to be successful."
Team USA is coached by Pittsburgh's Suzie McConnell-Serio and also includes UConn Class of 2018 recruiting target Christyn Williams, a guard from Little Rock, Arkansas.
After the World Cup, Dangerfield and Walker will have a quick turnaround and head back to Storrs as the Huskies will take an 11-day tour of Italy starting in mid-August.
"That's exciting," Walker said. "I've never been to Italy so it's great that I'll get to enjoy it twice."
3x3 Comng to the Olympics
Katie Lou Samuelson loves playing 3-on-3 basketball. UConn's junior All-American owns a pair of gold medals representing her country. In 2013, she teamed with Arike Ogunbowale, Brianna Turner (both now at Notre Dame) and Gabby Green to win gold at the FIBA 3x3 U-18 world championships in Indonesia. The next year, Samuelson, her UConn teammate Napheesa Collier, former UConn player De'Janae Boykin (now at Penn State), and Ogunbowale won gold at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China.
So the Huntington Beach, California native was excited to hear that the International Olympic Committee in June had approved the addition of a 3-on-3 tournament to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"It's awesome," Samuelson said. "Playing 3x3 is a lot of fun and I know that me and Napheesa enjoyed it when we played together. Sometimes we enjoyed it more than playing pickup because you have more freedom. It's awesome that it's now an Olympic sport.
"You can't hide, you have to be involved in every single play somehow. You have to always be going. There are no breaks unless you're substituted out. When you're on the court you have to do something every play, every possession."
FIBA and the IOC organized the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010 with 3x3 basketball in it, and it proved to be popular with players and spectators.
Team USA captured the gold medal at the 3x3 U-18 World Cup on July 2 by defeating the Czech Republic 21-14 in the final in Chengdu, China. Aquira DeCosta, a senior at St. Mary's High in Stockton, California, was named the Most Valuable Player. Rounding out the team were Williams, Janelle Bailey, and Destiny Littleton.
UConn freshman guard Andra Espinoza-Hunter will wear the uniform No. 2 she had at Ossining High in New York. Walker will wear No. 3, Mikayla Coombs No. 4, and Lexi Gordon No. 34. "No one else wanted No. 2 so there was none of the drama like Megan and Mikayla," Espinoza-Hunter said with a smile. Walker and Coombs both wanted No. 3, with Walker getting the nod by winning a coin flip. ... UConn Class of 2019 recruiting target Aliyah Boston appeared in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" after earning MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U-16 Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The 6-foot-4 from Worcester Academy in Massachusetts averaged 11.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.6 blocked shots to lead Team USA (5-0) to the gold medal.