The result of gold medals may be the same, but each Team USA experience for Tennessee’s Bashaara Graves has been different.
This time around, the Lady Vol sophomore started every game in the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women, and took on more of a leadership role.
Her leadership helped contribute to a title as Team USA (9-0) beat France 61-28 on Sunday in Klaipeda, Lithuania.
“I’m one of the oldest ones here and one who has the most experience,” Graves said, “so I was just trying to be a leader to the young ones. I’m starting this time, so I was just trying to get the gold any way I can.”
Graves scored nine points and had eight rebounds in the title game. For the tournament, the SEC Freshman of the Year averaged 8.4 points and 6.2 rebounds. She shot a team-leading 59.2 percent (29-49).
Graves had previously won gold with USA Basketball at the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women, the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women and the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women.
That doesn’t mean each experience hasn’t been meaningful for Graves.
“It feels great (to win),” Graves said. “(Every time) it always feels like the first time just being out there with my teammates and seeing how happy everyone is. It’s a celebration.”
After a tight 69-63 win over France in a second-round game, Team USA dominated the championship, especially in the second half. Team USA outscored France 34-8 in the second half, including 14-2 in the fourth quarter.
Team USA held France to 21.7 percent shooting, forced 24 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 48-33. They also held France to two assists.
“Obviously we had to grind it out on the offensive end,” USA coach Katie Meier said. “At halftime we talked about our defense. They had only scored 20 points and that was huge for us. So, we just said that when push comes to shove, you win championships with your defense, so go out there and lock down and stay together as a team. That was just an amazing performance.”