By Joe LacdanOctober 8, 2019
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. -- During the upcoming Military World Games in Wuhan, China, the U.S. Armed Forces women's basketball players will face taller, Olympic-caliber players.
However, the U.S. women carry a quiet confidence about them.
Team USA will use a combination of speed, strength and shooting to offset any size disadvantage, U.S. coach and Army Maj. Michael Meyers II said. A few of the U.S. women are also deadly from three-point range.
LONG-RANGE PRECISION FIRE
"I call them the splash sisters," joked Meyers during an Oct. 3 scrimmage. The team held training camp in preparation for the 7th Council of International Sports for Military, or CISM, Military World Games that begin Oct. 18 and continue through Oct. 28. Military athletes from about 100 nations compete in the CISM games every four years before the summer Olympics.
Army 1st Lt. Jala Harris and Army Capt. Taylor Alton will pace the U.S. women with their three-point shooting abilities which helped the All-Army team capture the 2019 Armed Forces Basketball Championship last June.
Alton shot 45 percent from the arc during the AFBC, including hitting six of seven from downtown during the All-Army team's 91-76 dismantling of Navy in the teams' second meeting. Harris hit 48 percent of her three-point attempts during the tournament, including seven of nine threes in a 91-67 rout of the All-Marine Corps team. A third U.S. player, Petty Officer 1st Class Christie Ayers, shot 39 percent from three-point range for the All-Navy team.
"We have shooters everywhere," said Army Sgt. Donita Adams, a 5-foot 8-inch guard. "Everyone can shoot the basketball on this team."
The squad can also run. While admittedly undersized compared to its towering international competitors, the U.S. has several talented players that can hustle, including Ayers, Adams and Air Force 2nd Lt. Charmaine Clark, the AFBC leading scorer at 17.9 points per game. Adams, who played professionally in Italy and had a brief stint with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, led the All-Army team in scoring at 14.9 ppg. Harris averaged 14.6 ppg and an Army team-best 4.4 assists per game.
"I think we'll really be able to run teams up and down the floor," Alton said. "If we find size mismatches we'll be able to take advantage of them even if we're on the smaller end."
The team's post game will be anchored by the All-Navy team's leading scorer, Petty Officer 3rd Class Danika Dale, who averaged 13.3 ppg and 7.4 rebounds per game at the AFBC.
They also have some experience, as Ayers (11.1 ppg at AFBC) and Adams both played in the 2016 World Military Basketball Championship at Camp Pendleton, California, where the U.S. took silver after losing to Brazil by one in the final.
"I think we have a really good chance of winning gold," said Ayers, who had 25 points for Navy to help hand the All-Army team their lone AFBC loss. "We have a lot of good shooters, we have a lot of post players that are good inside, but they can also step out and hit the mid-range shot as well. I just think we have an all-around really good team. We're not one dimensional."
Myers said his squad could be the most talented group ever assembled. He added that several players could find their way into the starting rotation depending on the matchups and players' overall health.
Many of the Armed Forces players have Division I experience including Alton, who led Michigan State in three-point shooting as a senior; Ally Lehman, who starred at Northern Illinois; and Clark, who competed for the University of Miami. Harris played for the University of Alabama-Birmingham and earned Conference USA's freshman of the year honors.
"A very talented group of women," Meyers said. "Maybe the best in quite some time. A lot of great shooting. A lot of very selfless leaders that are willing to sacrifice some of the important parts of their game for the better of the team."
Meyers did say he will likely start 6-1 Sgt. 1st Class April Cromartie (Army) 6-foot Dale, and Alton. The starting wings likely will be decided by committee and he will also consult the team's trainer, Army Capt. Kelsey Gebauer, to keep his lineup fresh.
"That's one of the craziest things about this whole process is that every last one of these women are starters on an averaged armed forces team," Meyers said. "So what we're most likely going to do is look at our matchups."
Meyers expects a lofty challenge from the host nation, adding that the Chinese armed forces squad typically boasts a larger lineup.
"Obviously China's going to be a really big team, very skilled team, and they're the host country, so they're going to put their best foot forward," Meyers said.