They spent five weeks of their so-called summer vacation attending their first classes at the University of Connecticut. Another three weeks were taken preparing for and representing their country in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championships.
No wonder that during the trials for the U-18 team in Colorado Springs in late May, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa wondered if the vacation in their summer would ever come.
But with gold medals around their necks, thanks to Team USA's 84-60 win over Canada in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championships final Tuesday night in Mexico City, do the Huskies' freshmen get a break before they report for the start of fall semester classes which begin Aug. 27?
"Well, there won't be too much time off since we have a conditioning test once we get back to school so we have to be ready," Williams said. "But all the work we did this summer, winning the gold makes it all worth it. However, I am really looking forward to being at home with my family for a couple of weeks."
Williams, the 5-foot-11 guard from Little Rock, Arkansas, and Nelson-Ododa, the 6-4 forward from Winder, Georgia, return home Wednesday with the gold they sought in Mexico City.
Team USA is 59-2 with nine straight gold medals in the event. The first gold in the streak was won by the 2000 team coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma that included Diana Taurasi and Ashley Battle. The Americans' 6-0 effort in Mexico City also clinched a spot for them in the 2019 FIBA U-19 World Cup.
They won their games by an average of 47.5 points with the closest being against Canada. They held their opponents to 25.0 percent shooting from the floor while forcing an average of 23.3 turnovers.
"I think we got stronger as we went along," Williams said. "It was definitely a team effort and we played our hearts out, but we knew that was what we needed. We all worked hard to get this done and get this gold medal."
Williams had 11 points, five rebounds, and five assists in 24 minutes in the final Tuesdaynight. Nelson-Ododa picked up two fouls in the first 4:06, but came back to help spark a third-quarter surge and finished with seven points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.
In five games (she missed the pool-play game against Puerto Rico last Friday due to illness), Williams averaged 8.4 points on 40.0 percent shooting from the floor, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6, and 1.2 steals in 17.0 minutes. In six games, Nelson-Ododa averaged 9.2 points on 50.0 percent shooting from the floor, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.0 blocked shots in 16.5 minutes.
"I did miss a game," Williams said. "But I thought during the whole week I was able to do a good job playing my role and doing the things that my coaches and my teammates needed me to do.
"It's the same with Olivia. She did the things she does well, played her role, and did what the coaches asked of her."
The gold medal is the second for Williams and her fourth medal overall playing for USA Basketball. She won gold at the 2017 FIBA 3x3 U-18 World Cup, silver at the 2017 FIBA U-19 World Cup, and bronze at the 2016 FIBA U-17 world championships. Nelson-Ododa's only previous national team experience was with the 2016 U-17 team. She did not try out for the 2017 U-19 team due to a knee injury.
Kentucky freshman wing Rhyne Howard was named the event's Most Valuable Player and was joined on the all-tournament team by Class of 2019 forward Maori Davenport. Howard averaged 8.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 blocked shots in 19.0 minutes per game.
Canada led 18-14 after one quarter. Team USA then used a 14-3 spurt -- with four points each from Baylor freshman NaLyssa Smith and Michigan freshman Nazahrah Hillmon-Baker -- to go in front to stay. A free throw by Williams made it 39-31 at halftime.
The teams exchanged 3-point baskets to start the second half before the USA went on a run to put it out of reach. Two hoops by Davenport sandwiched around one by Howard made it 48-34. After a Canada basket, the Americans netted nine points in a row -- the first five by Nelson-Ododa and two each by Williams and Notre Dame Class of 2019 commit Anaya Peoples -- to lead by 21. It was 64-40 going to the fourth quarter.
"We really focused on our defense to begin the second half," Williams said. "Coach (Jeff Walz) told us that if we turned up the defense that our offense would come. We did that and were able to build a big lead."
Smith led Team USA with 18 points. Hillmon-Baker and Iowa State freshman Ashley Joens joined Smith and Williams in double figures with 10 points each.
"I've seen growth and I've seen them become one," Walz said on the USA Basketball website. "We talked about it all the time -- it has to come to a point where you are playing for each other. I really believe the last few days they started to buy into that."
Argentina won the bronze medal with a 62-52 win over Colombia.