COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- First there was a thunderous block. Then there was a steal followed by another steal and the players and spectators watching Sunday morning's session of the United States national team U-16 trials were buzzing.
All that was missing was a dunk, not that she can't do that.
"Sometimes people see the dunk and they just say, 'Oh, she's the girl that dunked,' " Fran Belibi said. "They might think that's all I can do. I think I'm more than that. It's a huge deal to me to show that. The dunk is a part of my game. But I also bring a lot of other things to the table and I've wanted the selection committee to see that."
Belibi, a 6-foot-2 sophomore forward from Centennial, Colorado, is in the final group of 37 competing for a spot on the U-16 team that will take part in the FIBA Americas Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 7-11. Finalists for the 12-player squad will be announced Monday.
But before now she was best known for a one-handed dunk she registered for Regis Jesuit High (Aurora, Colorado) in a Jan. 6 win over Grand Junction. She stole a pass at midcourt, broke clear, and slammed the ball through the net with her right hand. Two YouTube videos of the dunk -- the first in Colorado girls high school basketball history -- have received close to a quarter-million views.
She would add a second dunk on a breakaway after a steal against Fort Collins six weeks later.
"It scares people a little bit and it gets people excited, but it's all fun," Belibi said with a laugh. "The opposite bench, they just look at each other. Usually they're just a little embarrassed and sad about it."
The trials mark her second trip to the United States Olympic Training Center. She was part of the silver-medal winning team at the U-18 3x3 national tournament last month.
While many players at the U-16 trials started playing basketball when they started going to school, Belibi picked up the game only two years ago.
As a freshman, she took third in the doubles competition of the state tennis championships.
"I definitely have a lot to learn and a lot of the girls are a step ahead in experience," Belibi said. "But I think talent-wise we're pretty much equal.
"This is going to help me going against some of the best young players in the country. It's an exciting experience. It's something I'm going to see as I continue play and into college."
Belibi averaged 15.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.2 blocked shots as a sophomore in helping Regis Jesuit to a 20-7 record and a state tournament semifinal berth.
The more she plays, the better she gets.
"My freshman year I was timid and wasn't sure what I was doing," Belibi said. "But last summer I gained a lot of confidence. Last season, I was able to take the ball to the basket and post up and was able to get some easy scores I would not have gotten as a freshman."
"Now I need to develop into more of a leader and continue to get more confident in my scoring ability. I'm going to work on my jump shot and continue to grow."
While she doesn't want to be known for the dunk, there has been a big-time positive from the attention it received.
College coaches know who she is now.
"My coaches have gotten a lot of call from colleges and I hope it helps me get there," Belibi said. "I haven't thought too much about that whole process. I'm hoping to go to a school with good academics and a good team and hopefully win a championship."
Her parents are doctors and she hopes to become one, too.
Her best operating right now is on the basketball court.
REALITY CHECK FOR LCU'S GOMEZ
They were coming off an unbeaten national championship season and needed to replace four starters, including an All-American. Lubbock Christian University and coach Steve Gomez finished the 2016-17 season at 19-11, coming within one win of returning to the NCAA Division II tournament and the chance to continue their championship reign.
So if anyone can appreciate what the University of Connecticut and coach Geno Auriemma did in the post-Big Three era last season, it's Gomez, who is serving as an assistant to coach Carla Berube with the U-16 national team.
"It was so fun to watch," Gomez said. "When they lost you could see it on Geno's face. It was like, 'I knew this was going to happen but I thought it would happen earlier in the year.' The longer it went, I just kept thinking, 'I don't want to see this end in the tournament.' But I loved his comments afterwards. It was incredible what they did."
LCU won the 2016 Division II national championship, capping off a perfect 35-0 season by defeating Alaska-Anchorage at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Lady Chaps' only loss was in exhibition to UConn at the XL Center in Hartford.
By the time they raised their national championship banner at the Rip Griffin Center in Lubbock, Texas, last Nov. 19, they had already lost twice.
"We had a tough schedule and we were inconsistent," Gomez said. "But to me it was like, 'This is reality.' The year we went undefeated, that was not reality. This year we were never able to play as good as we could where the previous year we played to our level every time.
"It was a battle and we lost games late that in years before we refused to lose. I hate to say that in some ways that it was an enjoyable season, but in some ways painful as well."
But LCU did find a rhythm and ran off six straight wins to get to the final of the Heartland Conference tournament. A win over top-seeded St. Edward's would give the Lady Chaps an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
LCU took a one-point lead with 8:19 to go but then went six minutes without a field goal. St. Edward's used a 9-0 run to go in front and went on to a 52-44. The Lady Chaps shot 32 percent from the floor and were 1-for-22 shooting from 3-point land.
"It would have been great to go to the regionals and I thought we could have advanced if we made it," Gomez said.
All-American Tess Bruffey is among three starters that will be back next season. The Lady Chaps hope to return to the NCAA tournament and be a tough out come March.
"I thought this year that I needed to shield them from the expectations, but now I don't know if that was the right way to go," Gomez said. "We needed to be better. Next year, we won't have that national champion tag. But at the same time we need to embrace that and say, 'That's the level we want to be at.' We may not win it, but we don't need to lower our standards."
Another return Gomez would like to make is to UConn. The Huskies' exhibition schedule for next season is set with games against 2017 Division II champion Ashland and Fort Hays State booked. But he has been in touch with the Huskies for a possible future date.
"We've e-mailed them a couple of times and told them if they would consider wanting to do it again, we would love to," Gomez said. "They said they'd keep it in mind. We send e-mails to Tennessee, Texas, Baylor, I'll send them anywhere. They're like, 'We'll see.' And that's why I'm so grateful to UConn for doing what they did. We get D-1 schools that say they'll play but it seems like they always end up cancelling. I would love that chance to go to Connecticut again."
Ten applicant candidates who paid their own way here are among the final group of 37. The last trials session is Sunday evening with the finalists being announced around 10 a.m. (EDT) Monday. Among the invitees who were cut prior to Sunday's first session were Myra Gordon, sister of UConn freshman Lexi, and Texas commit Deja Kelly ... Working for USA Basketball at the U-16 trials is Danielle Page, a former Nebraska standout who had a brief stint with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun in 2008. Last year, she won a bronze medal for Serbia at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, averaging 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds. She had 15 points in a 110-84 loss to Team USA in pool play.