COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Aliyah Boston's effort as an applicant candidate at the 2016 United States U-17 national team trials earned her an invitation from USA Basketball to this weekend's U-16 trials at the United States Olympic Training Center.
But the 6-foot-3 forward from Worcester Academy in Massachusetts knew that being a finalist for the U-17 team meant nothing as far making the U-16 team. So she used last year's bid that fell just short as motivation to represent her country for the first time.
"Being last year helped with my preparation because I saw what I needed to work on," Boston said on Friday. "I worked on all of that and the usual things I do to get better -- jump shots, free throws, post moves. I just kept working every day to get better. I wanted to be better running the floor and posting up strong every possession. I want to show that I have an outside game. And I want to show that I'm mentally tougher."
The original group of 133 that started the trials Thursday night will be trimmed down starting Saturday. The final trials session is Sunday with an announcement of the team or finalists set for Monday.
The final 12-player squad will take part in the 2017 FIBA Americas Championship June 7-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Boston, who moved with her family to Worcester from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, three years ago, followed up her outstanding showing at the U-17 trials a year ago by having a solid sophomore season at Worcester Academy. She averaged 23 points, 14.7 rebounds and 4.8 blocks as Worcester Academy went 19-3 and advanced to the New England Prep School Athletic Council Class 2A tournament semifinals. She posted a double-double in all 22 games and was named the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year.
"It was a great year," Boston said. "It feels great to be the kind of player that my team can rely on because I think that I've worked to be that. I'm enjoying seeing the results of that work."
That work continued after the season once she received her invitation to the U-16 trials. Every school day, she would wake up at 4:15 a.m. and work out with her older sister, Alexis.
"There were days I wouldn't want to get up, but I would anyway," Boston said with a laugh. "I find that once I get out of bed, I'm OK.
"I want to make this team and get my college education paid for."
Boston, who is ranked ninth in the Class of 2019 by ESPNHoopGurlz, has not put together a college list but has made unofficial visits. She attended the University of Connecticut's annual First Night program at Gampel Pavilion last October.
The process still has a ways to go.
"I want a college coach that will help me get to the WNBA and to play overseas," Boston said. "I'm looking for a college with a family feel and what we do is a group effort."
The only process she has on her mind now is earning the privilege to have USA on her uniform next month.
"I have to keep working," Boston said. "There are a lot of talented players here that want a spot on the team just like I do. I need to want it more."
CAN'T MISS KID
Myra Gordon will miss her sister's high school graduation Saturday and miss the chance to say goodbye Sunday when Lexi Gordon heads to Storrs for the start of summer classes at UConn.
But having an opportunity to make the U-16 national team was an opportunity she could not miss. The 5-foot-10 guard from Fort Worth, Texas, a member of the ESPNW Class of 2020 watch list, took part in last year's U-17 trials as an applicant candidate and made enough of an impression to earn an invitation here.
"I know coming here the coaches and the selection committee are looking for the little things," Gordon said. "I was able to train and be ready for the altitude, because last year I got tired pretty easily. There's great competition here and I have to bring my A game every time I'm on the court.
"As long as I play my best, I'll be OK with whatever happens."
Playing on the L.D. Bell High team with her older sister, Gordon averaged 10.0 points and 5.2 rebounds as the Lady Raiders posted a 20-13 record. She feels she's become a more consistent shooter, more vocal, and is able to see the floor better.
The sisters have spent the last two months together working out -- Lexi for UConn and Myra for the U-16 trials.
"Lexi pushes me, usually by yelling," Myra Gordon said. "In training sessions she's always yelling at me and telling me what I need to do and how to do it. I get mad at her for doing that but she's helped me become the player and person I am."
And as Myra got ready to take her flight here, they said goodbye -- at least until July.
"Of course, I'm taking over her bedroom," Gordon said with a laugh. "Definitely her closet.
"It was very emotional," she added. "At first, it was surreal. It was crazy. She's my sister and my best friend. But I'll be OK."
Of note, Lexi Gordon will keep her high school uniform No. 34 at UConn.
There is only one player from Connecticut at the trials -- freshman forward Marilyn Childs of Waterford. She is an applicant candidate. ... Cameron Brink, a 6-foot-4 forward from Beaverton, Oregon, is one of the 35 invitees and a member of the ESPNW Class of 2020 watch list. She lists Stephen Curry as her favorite player and for good reason. Brink's mother, Michelle, was the roommate of Curry's mother, Sonya, at Virginia Tech and is the Golden State Warriors star's Godmother. ... There are four players at the trials who have made college verbal commitments: River Baldwin (Florida State), Nyah Green (Louisville), Deja Kelly (Texas) and Jordyn Oliver (Baylor).