COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Sam Brunelle -- a member of the Future Business Leaders of America chapter at William Monroe High in Standardsville, Virginia, -- considers this weekend's stay at the United States Olympic Training Center a business trip.
"And we're pushing for the gold," Brunelle said Friday.
"Last year here was a great experience to learn from all the older girls. Coming into this year I'll have more of a leadership role. I have the experience, I know what the trials will be like and what to expect."
The 6-foot-2 forward, considered the top player in the Class of 2019, was the youngest member of the 2016 United States national team that won a bronze medal at the FIBA U-17 World Championships in Spain.
The 16-year-old is back at the USOTC to take part in the U-16 trials that began Thursday night and continue through Monday. The 12-player team will take part in the 2017 FIBA Americas Championship from June 7-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
She is taking nothing for granted.
"This is my age group here," Brunelle said. "I want to show why I made it last year and show those things again this year. You have to keep working as hard as you can no matter what. There will always be someone in the gym working hard. You have to outwork them.
"There are no guarantees. No one is guaranteed anything here. I really want to be on this team and get a gold medal."
Brunelle averaged 2.0 points and 1.0 rebounds in 4.2 minutes over six games at last summer's U-17 World Championships. Team USA was perfect in pool play but lost to Australia in the semifinals. The Americans then defeated China for the bronze medal.
"It was an amazing experience," Brunelle said. "A lot of the girls taught me a lot about the game and playing for USA Basketball. I took a lot of what I learned and brought it here."
She averaged 25.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 3.4 blocked shots as a sophomore in leading William Monroe High to a 16-8 record and earning Class 3A All-State honors. She reached the 1,000-point plateau in her 40th career game and will take totals of 1,251 points, 750 rebounds, and 158 blocked shots into her junior year.
And she did it with a target on her back worthy of a national team player and top-ranked recruit.
"It does put pressure on you but you can't be concerned about that or numbers or what someone else thinks you are," Brunelle said. "Only you know who you really are.
"I saw a lot of double teams from the get-go, and I saw a lot of triple teams and I had to learn to adjust. I have faith in my teammates that they can knock down shots and they did that a lot."
Learning is one of the things that she does best. She has been a member of the Principal's Honor Roll in each semester of her first two years of high school and owns a 4.275 grade point average.
Next school year, she will be inducted into William Monroe's National Honor Society.
"I make sure that I get my schoolwork done, first and foremost," Brunelle said. "If I have a workout right after school, my schoolwork gets done right when I get home. Basketball and schoolwork are big for me and it's important to manage my time right and keep that balance."
That balance will be tested as the recruiting process heats up with home visits in the fall and the option of taking official visits as soon as next spring.
She has gotten a head start on things, estimating she has taken somewhere between 10 and 20 unofficial visits. One of those trips was to Storrs and the University of Connecticut last October.
"I wanted to see UConn practice for a long time and it was great to experience it for myself," said Brunelle, who received a scholarship offer from coach Geno Auriemma during her visit. "I'm really glad I got to see how hard they really work. It was amazing for me to see the different things they do. It showed me why they're constantly a national championship contender."
For those awaiting a final decision, they'll be waiting awhile longer. Brunelle said she has yet to put together a college list but will put one together in August or September.
"I'm still taking it nice and slow," Brunelle said. "But it would be nice to have a decision made before my senior year so I can have that year to relax and prepare for college."
Recruiting, though, is the last thing on Brunelle's mind this weekend.
She has some business at the trials to take care of.