Kristine Anigwe seemingly saved her best for last.
The Desert Vista senior-to-be had a career game in the Division I state championship game to help the Thunder to its first-ever title in February.
The 6-foot-4 Anigwe was dominant in Desert Vista’s 53-37 win over Sandra Day O’Connor as she finished with 25 points and 17 rebounds.
She was more aggressive and efficient than ever before. Anigwe asked for the ball, and took it when it was a 50-50 situation. She had a large height advantage, but that wasn’t the difference.
It was the look in her eyes.
“We had a couple of discussions before state where I told her we go as far as she is going to take us,” Thunder coach J’ontar Coleman said. “She took that as a challenge and stepped up, played hard and she was determined to win that state championship.”
Apparently, that intensity and level of play stayed with Anigwe.
The Cal commit found out last week that she will be part of the 12-member roster for the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team.
The team trials began with 145 players on the court at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Colorado Springs, Colo., before it was dwindled down to the dozen who will represent the country at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship that will be played June 28-July 6 in Czech Republic.
“You had to fight for your spot or you would be cut,” Anigwe said.
Clearly, the fight Anigwe used to help the Thunder to the title never left as she found a spot on one of the most sought after teams.
Now, the real work begins.
The USA U17 squad will be looking to capture its third-straight FIBA U17 World Championship gold medal.
The 2014 USA U17 World Championship Team will reassemble at the USOTC for training camp June 12-17, before the team departs on June 18 for training and an exhibition tournament in Nogent sur Seine, France, June 20-22 before heading to the Czech Republic on June 23.
Slipping on the red, white and blue with U.S.A. emblazoned on it is something Anigwe is not taking lightly.
“It’s an honor to represent the country,” she said. “Trials were very competitive and intense. The people there were among the best in the world.”
Soon she will find out what the level of play is at the international level and it will only make her, and ultimately Desert Vista, better.
“I’m so proud of her,” Coleman said. “I knew she was one of the best players in the state, but now she is being recognized as one of the best in the nation. People better watch out next year. She will come back a different player as the coaches (at USA Basketball) develop her game even more and she gets a boost of confidence.”
Anigwe, who averaged 16.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.3 steals last year, will have an impressive team surrounding her the next few months.
Six of the players, including MVP Asia Durr of St. Pius X Catholic in Douglasville, Ga., were members of the USA squad that won the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship this past summer to earn the USA its berth into the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship.
“I am so excited,” said head coach Sue Phillips, who returns to lead the 2014 USA U17 World Championship Team after having led the USA to a gold medal at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. “This group of participants was extremely talented, very coachable and worked so hard. I knew whichever 12 the committee decided on, we were going to have a very competitive team. We’re going to do our best to win the gold medal.”
A gold medal would look awfully nice next to the state title ring Anigwe already earned.
“I’m very excited to play amongst the best,” she said. “I want to get better and I think it will be a great experience.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.