For all of her success with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, Moriah Jefferson has never forgotten being cut the first three times (2009-11) she tried to make a USA Basketball national team.
So even though the nation's best collegiate point guard was as much of a favorite to represent her country this summer as her Huskies would be against Houston, she took nothing for granted as she made her way to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last week.
"You have to go out there and play hard and show them what you can do," Jefferson said. "I think there was one session that could have been better but overall I was happy with how I played."
Jefferson was rewarded by being named to the United States Pan-American Games team. She'll be joined on the 12-player squad by UConn teammate and fellow All-American Breanna Stewart. The team is coached by Iowa's Lisa Bluder.
The Pan-American Games are set for July 16-20 in Toronto.
"I'm really happy to make the team and represent my country again," Jefferson said. "I'm looking forward to playing in the Pan-Am Games and playing with Stewie again. Playing with her is always exciting and always fun and it's the third time in the last four summers that I've been able to do it."
Stewart and Jefferson played together on the gold-medal winning 2012 FIBA Americas U-18 tournament and the 2013 FIBA U-19 world championships.
For Stewart, it's the seventh straight summer she'll play for Team USA and it will be her second appearance in the Pan-Am Games. In 2011, she became the first high school player since Nancy Lieberman in 1975 to represent the United States in the event. But it's also the only time that she did not win a gold medal.
Stewart was at the USOTC coming off a three-day camp in Las Vegas with the senior national team and coach Geno Auriemma.
"Stewie played like Stewie," Jefferson said. "She did the things that she always does."
The World University Games and U-19 national teams were also chosen last Sunday. UConn incoming freshmen Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier were named to the U-19 team that will play in the world championships in Chekhov, Russia, July 18-26. UConn Class of 2016 commit Crystal Dangerfield was also selected.
Jefferson got to catch the Huskies' Class of 2015 recruiting class in action.
"It looked like they were doing some real good things," Jefferson said. "Katie Lou was knocking down shots and Napheesa and De'Janae (Boykin) were aggressive going for the ball. It already seems like they play really well together."
After the trials, Jefferson got to go home to Glenn Heights, Texas. She'll be back in Storrs for the start of summer school June 1.
Team USA will return to Colorado Springs on July 3 for the start of training camp and will depart for the competition in Toronto on July 8. The women's basketball competition will take place July 16-20.
The Americans have been placed into Group A and will take on Brazil on July 16, Dominican Republic on July 17 and Puerto Rico on July 18 in the preliminary round. Competing in Group B will be Argentina, Canada, Cuba and Venezuela.
A number of countries are expected to send their senior national teams to compete in Toronto as they use the Pan-Am Games as preparation for an Olympic qualifier to be held in Edmonton in August. The United States has already assured itself a berth in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro by winning the gold at the 2014 FIBA world championships.
If Team USA faces Canada, Jefferson could end up guarding her running mate in UConn's 2015 national championship backcourt -- Kia Nurse.
"That would be fun," Jefferson said with a laugh. "I think that I'm pretty familiar with the things that she likes to do."
Sun spotsAmerican Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that the 2016 AAC women's basketball tournament will be held at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, for the third straight year.
"The American Athletic Conference has, over the past two years, created a very special experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans at Mohegan Sun Arena," Aresco said in a statement. "We are excited to partner for a third year with a great venue and an outstanding staff who are extremely supportive of women's basketball. We look forward to another very successful tournament."
The agreement between the AAC and Mohegan Sun Arena is for 2016 with the league holding an option to have the 2017 event there.
UConn has won both AAC tournament titles, beating Louisville in the 2014 final and South Florida in the 2015 championship game.
The 2016 tournament will be played March 4-7, and all 11 AAC schools will participate.
The Huskies will play a regular season game at Mohegan Sun Arena for the second straight season on Dec. 11 when they take on Florida State in the Hall of Fame Women's Holiday Showcase, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Wednesday.
"Florida State has a lot of talented players returning from a team that advanced to the regional final of the 2015 NCAA tournament and I'm already looking forward to this early-season test," Auriemma said in a statement. "Playing games in Mohegan Sun Arena is always a positive experience and I hope a lot of our fans in southeast Connecticut take advantage of this opportunity."
Florida State was 32-5 last season and reached the Greensboro (North Carolina) Regional final where it lost to South Carolina. The Seminoles are coached by Sue Semrau, the 2015 Associated Press Coach of the Year. It will be the first meeting between UConn and Florida State since Dec. 21, 2010, when the Huskies, behind Maya Moore's 41 points, defeated the Seminoles 93-62 in Hartford for their 89th consecutive win.
UConn defeated UCLA in the 2014 Hall of Fame Women's Holiday Showcase. It's expected the Huskies will face Texas at Mohegan Sun Arena in 2016.
Free throwsUConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter will begin her bid to make the United States U-16 national team Thursday when the trials start with a skills session for the 158 candidates at 7 p.m. (EDT) in Colorado Springs. The team will be announced Monday ... Jefferson said it doesn't matter to her whether college games are played in quarters, as has been proposed, or halves. But the proposal to not start the 10-second backcourt count over if a ball is knocked out of bounds will work in the Huskies' favor: "We do like to press a lot and we do get a lot of deflections when we're close to getting that 10-second call," she said. "That change would be a big advantage for us." ... Nike announced Tuesday the signing of the four top picks in the 2015 WNBA Draft -- including former UConn All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of the Seattle Storm -- to contracts to represent the company.