Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - August 12, 2011

Ogwumike sisters are preparing for a little basketball

Team USA opens against Brazil in the preliminary round

by USA Basketball staff

The United States women's basketball World University Games team could have used a little time to relax after its 30-hour trip from Colorado Springs to Shenzhen, China for the World University Games, which begin with Opening Ceremonies on Saturday.

Time was too precious to waste, though, so after a short respite from four different bus rides and two separate air flights, the Americans began acclimating themselves to living in an athletic village with thousands of other competitors.

The first day began with breakfast at 9 a.m., and followed with a delegation briefing at 10 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., a press conference and back to the village about 3:30 p.m. An hour later, the players got taped and scrimmaged against Brazil at 5:35 p.m.

"It was great. It was a nice opportunity to get the kinks out, to finally get loose because we had a long travel," Stanford sophomore Chiney Ogwumike said. "We're just here trying to get acclimated, so being able to finally hit the floor after seeing so many athletes from so many countries is really great. We were motivated. It was fun."

Bleary-eyed from lack of sleep and exercise, it was clearly a learning experience.

"I think someone said the name of the day was 'patience,'" Notre Dame guard Natalie Novosel said. "You never know what you're going to experience with the travel. It's always unexpected, so you just have to go with the flow. Once somebody to get irritable, it's easy for a lot of people to get irritable. So everyone was trying to keep a good attitude about it and everyone did the best they could. Overall I think everyone did have a good attitude, a good experience and we made it here safely and that's the biggest thing."

Everyone on the team seems excited about the looming experience, and not just because of the basketball competition. There are too many cultures to explore, experiences to be had and lifelong friendships to forge for the USA Basketball coaches and athletes to be anything but excited.

"The athletes' village has so many different cultures," said Ogwumike, a first generation Nigerian-American. "You see and meet people from around the world that you would never get to meet, who are also top-tier athletes and great people. The village is just great, food-wise, service-wise. The people of Shenzhen have been way over hospitable. I really enjoy the village and I couldn't imagine a better experience, coming to the World University Games."

The USA opens against Brazil on Sunday (Saturday night PDT) and in addition to practicing, the team's itinerary includes Opening Ceremonies, shopping and getting to know more people from around the world.

Team USA won the scrimmage, 79-47, 48 hours after leaving Colorado Springs.

"Coming from the U18 team last year, I was familiar with some of their players and their style," Ogwumike said. "But, it's a completely different team that we have right now at this event. So it was a different experience. Overall I liked our energy. We got better with every play and every possession and that's what we're looking for as we practice."

Ogwumike will also try to keep up with the other Stanford athletes involved in the World University Games.

"Yeah, I definitely am trying to follow the Stanford people, the swimmers," she said. "I know some people who are swimming here, so hopefully I get to go see them compete. Besides that, USA athletes, trying to see as many sports as we can, the different ones, the obscure ones, the mainstream ones and obviously our men's (basketball) team, hopefully we can catch them, too. USA and Stanford, I'm hoping to watch them all.

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