For the second straight summer, IUP head women’s basketball coach Tom McConnell will serve as a member of the USA Basketball coaching staff.
In March it was announced that McConnell will be an assistant coach for the 2022 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Cup Team, which is set to compete at the 2022 FIBA U17 Women’s World Cup July 9-17 in Debrecen, Hungary. He is part of a staff that consists of head coach Sue Phillips (Archbishop Mitty/San Jose Cagers) and fellow assistant coach Brittanny Johnson (Evanston Township H.S., Ill.). The coaching selections were made by the USA Basketball Women’s Developmental National Team Committee.
“This is really special, I love being back with the coaching staff and the staff of USA Basketball,” said McConnell. “This is such a positive environment — it’s uplifting and inspiring. I say that it’s like getting your PHd in basketball being around and learning from these great coaches.”
This is McConnell’s second summer with USA Basketball. He joined Phillips as they led the 2021 U16 National Team to a gold medal at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, going 6-0 in tournament play and winning by an average of 88 points per game. After winning Group B, Team USA defeated Costa Rica (121-12) in the quarterfinals, Mexico (121-30) in the semifinals, and Canada (118-45) for the gold.
The USA won its sixth gold medal in event history and improved to 42-1 overall in tournament play.
“Having been with Coach Phillips and knowing her system, I feel really comfortable with what she wants and how she wants to teach it,” said McConnell. “I’m her biggest fan. I have embraced her system and use it to try to bring out the best in our players.”
This summer, McConnell joins Phillips and Johnson to lead a 12-member U17 team that was announced earlier this month after six days of trials in Colorado Springs. The U17 National Team consists of Sunaja Agara, Madison Booker, Jaloni Cambridge, Morgan Cheli, Breya Cunningham, Jadyn Donovan, Hannah Hidalgo, Mackenly Randolph, Kennedy Umeh, Judea Watkins, Jada Williams and Mikaylah Williams.
Six of those players are familiar to McConnell. He coached Booker, Cambridge, Cunningham, Donovan, Watkins and Jada Williams in last summer’s FIBA Women’s U16 Americas Championship.
“The first day arriving in Colorado Springs to see players I coached last year and to have that moment with them was really exciting,” said McConnell. “Last year was something we will always cherish. But it was quickly stated that this is a new year, a new challenge, and new opponents. The competition will be tougher. We enjoyed those moments, but now it’s time to go to work.”
“This year we are training in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center,” said McConnell. “Last year we weren’t able to do that because of COVID, so being in Colorado this summer is really something special. I walk into the gym where all of these Olympians have trained, then stick my head into the gymnastics training center, and then the pool where Michael Phelps trained. To be part of that is very special.”
The USA has won the FIBA U17 Women’s World Cup four of the five times the event has been held, including the most recent occurrence in 2018.
McConnell and Team USA will reunite to train for a week at the end of this month before flying to Madrid to compete in three friendlies against Spain, France and Australia. From there, they’ll fly to Hungary to compete in the Women’s World Cup July 9-17.
Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and chaired by retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, USA Basketball is a nonprofit organization and the national governing body for basketball in the United States. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the U.S. by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA national teams that compete in FIBA-sponsored five-on-five, 3x3 and esport international competitions, as well as for some national competitions and for the development of youth basketball initiative that address player development, coach education and safety, while promoting, growing and elevating the game.