Mikayla Coombs and the Class of 2017 graduated from the Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, Saturday morning.
But instead of wearing a cap and gown, Coombs was in her sneakers, shorts, and USA Basketball uniform shirt No. 36 at the U-19 national team trials at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For the 5-foot-8 guard from Buford, Georgia, making a run at representing her country beats walking across a stage to get a diploma anytime.
"They actually gave me a fake graduation ceremony," Coombs said with a laugh Friday night. "When I get home, I'll go pick up my diploma. As long as that's real, everything is fine.
"Being here was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
Coombs, who will arrive in Storrs next weekend and begin classes at the University of Connecticut on May 30, is among 33 players vying for roster spots on a team that will play in the FIBA U-19 World Cup to be held July 22-30 in Udine and Cividale del Friuli, Italy. The trials began Thursday night and run through Sunday.
It is her second trip to the USOTC. She earned an invitation to the 2016 U-17 trials and though she thought she played well, she was not among the last 40 of the original 140 players that made it to the final day of the trials. She missed the 2015 U-16 trials after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the first quarter of the first game of her sophomore season at Wesleyan School.
"I think what's important for me here is to remain consistent," Coombs said. "And I need to show that I can make my teammates better. Those are two things I've been really focusing on her."
Three of her future UConn teammates -- sophomore Crystal Dangerfield, fellow incoming freshman Megan Walker, and Class of 2018 commit Charli Collier -- are also taking part in the trials. Dangerfield was a member of the gold-medal winning 2015 U-19 world championships team, while Walker won gold at the FIBA Americas tournament with the 2016 U-18 team that qualified the U-19 team for this summer's world championships. Collier was a member of the 2016 U-17 team that won a world championships bronze medal.
Coombs would like to win her first medal. Then again, she's already done a lot of winning in 2017.
She averaged 16.9 points -- reaching the 1,000-point plateau for her career, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 4.0 steals as a senior in leading the Wesleyan School to a 28-4 record and the Georgia High School Association's Class A Private state championship. In the final, Coombs had 17 points and nine rebounds as Wesleyan erased a 17-point first-half deficit to defeat top-seeded Holy Innocents' 51-48.
"I got two quick fouls and I had sit out," Coombs said. "Then by the time I checked back in we were down 17 and they had all the momentum. But our mindset was that we didn't want to lose and I was determined to get back control whether it was by making a shot or a pass or getting a stop. Slowly, we got the momentum."
The Wolves took the lead when Coombs stole the ball and fed Sutton West for a layup to make it 49-48 with 1:55 remaining. Coombs and Jameson Kavel each hit a free throw in the last minute to account for the final score.
"It was a great game against our biggest rival and the team that beat us in the finals last year," Coombs said. "But I have to be really honest with you. That last minute was the longest minute of my life. We were up two and it seemed like they had so many shots. They'd miss and get the rebound and miss again ... When that buzzer finally went off, it was such a relief. I was so happy."
The state title was Coombs' second in her four years at Wesleyan School, but the first came during the sophomore year she missed with the knee injury.
For her efforts, she was named Georgia's Gatorade Player of the Year, the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Georgia Miss Basketball, and a McDonald's All-American. She also took part in the Jordan Brand Classic game in New York.
"All that stuff was great, but winning a state championship with my teammates was the best and most important thing," Coombs said.
Coombs' winning ways continued a week ago on the track at the Class A Private state meet. She ran the anchor leg on the victorious 4x100 relay team and the opening leg on the winning 4x400 relay team.
A year ago, Coombs said she planned on playing soccer during the spring of her senior year. Her father, Stephen, was a member of Jamaica's national soccer team. Coincidentally, Wesleyan School's girls soccer team also won a state championship this month. One of Coombs' teammates on the two relay teams, West, scored what proved to be the winning goal in the soccer final.
"It was amazing and a team effort," Coombs said.
While in Colorado Springs, Coombs is getting to know her future teammates.
Her roommate is Dangerfield and Collier also took part in last year's U-17 trials. She got to spend plenty of time alongside Walker at the McDonald's and Jordan Brand Classic game. Fellow incoming freshman Lexi Gordon also played in the Jordan Brand Classic while Andra Espinoza-Hunter made the short trip from her home in Ossining, New York, to the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn to see her classmates.
"We're all really close, and Megan and I really clicked," Coombs said. "We're both really laid back. Lexi and Andi are the real out-going ones."
Coombs wore No. 3 at Wesleyan School to honor Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade. However, she will wear All-American Moriah Jefferson's old No. 4 at UConn with Walker -- the 2017 national high school Player of the Year and three-time Virginia state champion at Monacan High -- wearing the No. 3 once worn by All-Americans Diana Taurasi and Morgan Tuck.
How was that decided?
"We didn't know how to do it," Coombs said. "So we did a coin toss. Megan called heads and it came up heads. It's OK."
Coombs will debut her No. 4 when UConn tours Italy Aug. 13-22. Of course, she would love to be wearing a USA jersey in Italy come July.
It would be a perfect way to celebrate her graduation.