The 12-player roster includes some of the top high school standouts in the nation, including Cooper, who qualified for the team May 26, following four days of trials in Colorado that started with 145 players on the court.
One of six players on a U.S. national team for the first time, Cooper will join six gold medalists from the 2013 under-16 team as the unit seeks to capture the under-17 world championships, which begin June 28 in Plzen, Czech Republic.
“I’m so excited and blessed to be playing for Team USA,” said Cooper, who was set to leave Atlanta early this morning to fly to Colorado Springs and begin training camp. “This is a huge thing for me. To have the opportunity to represent your country means the world to me. I’ve always wanted to do this, and I’m finally getting the opportunity.”
Selected Miss Georgia Basketball this past season by the Georgia Sports Writers Association, the recent Tennessee commitment and No. 12 overall player in the class of 2015 according to ESPN, led McEachern to its second state championship in three years after averaging 19.6 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 steals per game.
Cooper said she was overwhelmed with joy when coaches announced she made the national team.
“I was so excited, my heart started beating really fast,” she said. “I couldn’t show any emotion, though. There were six cuts from the original 150 or so players, and I made the final cut of about 60. They called us out on the last day and picked the final 12 alphabetically, so you knew you didn’t make the team if they skip your name. But they called me, and I was just so excited.”
Cooper was invited to last year’s tryouts, but failed to make the team. She said she learned from the experience and used that to her advantage.
“I expected the worst, but hoped for the best,” she said. “I capitalized on what I didn’t do well last year. I did everything they asked, and I was more outspoken and vocal on defense. I was aggressive when they wanted me to be.”
After training camp, the U.S. team will leave Colorado for an exhibition tournament in Nogent sur Seine, France, from June 20-22. The Americans will face China, Canada and France.
From France, the team will head on to the Czech Republic for the world championships, where they have been placed in a group with China, France and Mali.
The U.S. team is looking to capture its third straight gold medal in the under-17 championships, and this week’s training camp will give the coaching staff insight into who will start the first exhibition in France.
“I expect (training camp) to be really competitive out there,” said Cooper, who will be traveling outside the country for the first time. “Including me, there are only two point guards on the team, so it will be intense competition.”
McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur waited anxiously to find out if Cooper had made the team. She believes the experience will benefit not only Cooper, a rising senior, but the Lady Indians heading into the 2014-15 season.
“I was on pins and needles waiting to hear from her that day,” Arthur said. “I could tell from the text she sent that she was so excited. I was almost in tears.
“She’ll see the way the game is played in other countries in terms of pace and speed and spacing. She’ll come back and share what she learned and it will be a blessing for both of us.”