Ricketts headed to USA Basketball U19 tryouts

FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas rising freshman Ceira Ricketts is one of 27 of America’s elite 19-and-under women’s basketball players headed to the 2009 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship Team Trials.

The Southeastern Conference Newcomer of the Year participates in the team trials camp starting May 14 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The four-day event sets the group that returns for the U19 team training camp on July 8. At the close of training camp, the 12-player roster is announced for the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championships in Thailand.

“I think this is a great opportunity for ceira personally and to represent the University of Arkansas,” Razorback women’s basketball coach Tom Collen said. “We’ve spoken about the opportunity and she has put in some extra work in preparation for the trials.”

A freshman All-American, Ricketts led the Razorbacks with 12.6 ppg and the SEC with 82 steals as Arkansas posted a 18-14 record, finishing in the Women’s NIT Sweet 16. Named All-SEC second team and All-SEC Freshman, Ricketts was the co-freshman of the year by the league coaches and the SEC Newcomer of the Year by the Associated Press.

“It should be a good experience for her one way or the other to compete with the best players in her age group in the nation,” Collen said. “Many of the things they will be looking for her to do in the Pt Guard position are the same things we have talked about her improving over the summer to get ready for next year.”

She is joined in Colorado Springs by fellow SEC co-freshman LaSandra Barrett of LSU. The only other SEC players on the 27-player trials roster is Tennessee signee Taber Spani.

The event opens on the evening of May 14, with six sessions of training and tryouts over the four days. The team finalists are announced on Sunday, May 17.

Formerly known as the Junior World Championships, the FIBA U19 Worlds are conducted every other year. Team USA is the defending gold medalist, winning the past two tournaments in 2005 and 2007 and making the podium in the last four with a 29-2 run.

Ricketts is the sixth Razorback invited to USA Basketball team trials. Former Arkansas All-American Shameka Christon made the 2001 squad that captured the bronze medal in 2001.

NCAA representative Sue Donohoe chairs the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee.

“Given the wealth of talent we have in these 27 young women, selecting this year’s USA U19 World Championship Team is not going to be an easy task for the committee,” Donohoe said in USA Basketball’s press release. “We have some amazing players who will be trying out for just 12 roster spots and I expect that each trials session will be very competitive. However, I feel confident that the committee will be able to put together a team that will make the United States proud in its quest for a third consecutive FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal.”

Head coach for the U19 team is Northern Illinois University head coach Carol Owens, assisted by Florida head coach Amanda Butler and Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly.

“I’m excited to get started with trials next week,” Owens said in USA Basketball’s story. “We have so many great athletes who will be competing hard for a spot on the team. I’m actually happy that I don’t have to pick the team because I know it’s going to be a tough decision for the committee. This is just the first step in what we need to do in order to defend our gold medal and I’m looking forward to the entire process.”

Ricketts is one of 14 Division I freshmen invited to the trials along with 11 high school seniors and one junior and a single NJCAA freshman. In the 27 players are seven members of the 2008 USA U18 National Team and another 10 players have experience withWorld USA Basketball through the 2007 USA Youth Development Festival.

This is Ricketts’ first experience with USA Basketball.

Among the former Razorbacks at the trials were point guard Christy Smith, who led her team at the 1995 Olympic Festival following her freshman season, and captured gold in 1997 at the World University Games. Christon was a two-time USA Basketball team member, returning after the U19 to play on the USA Young Women’s Team in 2002 that won the COPABA Gold Medal.

For a complete list of the 2009 USA Basketball Women’s U19 National Team Trials, please go to USABasketball.com.

Caroline Williams of USA Basketball contributed to this story.