- Glenn Nelson, ESPNHS HoopGurlz
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DALLAS -- She arguably was the buzz of the USA Basketball trials in Colorado Springs, Colo., last month. So much so that even the other players started telling her that she'd nailed down a spot on a national-team roster. Moriah Jefferson tried telling them that "it's never a sure thing until they call your name," but they wouldn't hear of it.
The morning after the trials, the 63 candidates were assembled in a gym at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The names of those making the U18 and U17 national teams, as well as the 3-on-3 team for the Youth Olympic Games, were read and the rest were told to collect their things and prepare to return home. Jefferson was stunned to be on her way home to Glenn Heights, Texas.
"I was disappointed," said Jefferson, ranked No. 3 in the 2012 class by ESPN HoopGurlz. "I thought I did everything I needed to do to make the team. I was shocked, but there was nothing I could do about it."
Jefferson was the talk Tuesday of the Marques Jackson Big State Flava Jam, which commemorates the DFW Elite program's late director. Few have seen a girls' basketball player operate under control, in nearly every facet of the game, at the speed at which Jefferson plays. The TJACK team also may be the fastest unit many have seen, and it will add burners Alexis Jones, a member of the USA U18 team, and Amber Orrange, a Stanford commit, by Nike Nationals at the end of this month.
After dribbling circles around a fleet Lady Bobcat team from Memphis, Jefferson said the criticism she received from trials coaches, in a usual debriefing of all participants, was that she could not handle the ball against pressure and that 5-foot-6 point guard didn't get her team to run its offenses.
"Yes, I was surprised," she said of the feedback. "I thought I was one of the few who talked to my team and got them into the offense. And all I do is work on my ballhandling."
Her club coach, Daryl Horton, admitted he was "shocked" on one hand. But on the other, his son, Daniel, had made the USA U18 team one year and not kept on the next. So he's familiar with the terrain of the national-team selection process.
"She's going to respond like a champion," Horton said. "Now she's more determined than ever. Every day she goes into the gym, her goal is to win a national championship. She also wanted to win a gold medal for her country, but she still can get the national championship (at Nike Nationals)."
Jefferson said her disappointment offers "motivation."
"When I see the players who did make it," she added, referring to the USA national teams, "I'm going to show them that I also should have made it."
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the Parade All-American Selection Committee, he formerly coached girl's club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Point guard Moriah Jefferson was surprised when she wasn't selected to the national team. Now she's using it as motivation.