The pressure of being regarded as the No. 1 rated player in the Class of 2009 has not posed a problem for Kelsey Bone. She just won’t allow it to be a distraction.
Bone, a 6-foot-5 center from Sugar Land, Texas, has continued to fortify her spot at the top by working hard. And nothing has changed this week as she find herself competing for a spot on the 12-member U-18 National Team in Colorado Springs, Colo. There are 34 other players, including incoming UConn freshman Heather Buck and UConn-bound recruit Kelly Faris, at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with the same goal in mind.
“I totally understand that it’s all hype and that it can go away at any moment whenever a new kid on the block steps up,’’ Bone said. “So you have to work like you’re at the bottom, like you’re No. 2001 and not No. 1. It’s a total humbling experience (being at the trials). You’re not able to just dominate everyone out here. You have to put in work because you’re going against the best at every position and everybody’s shining.’’
UConn recruit Skylar Diggins, a 5-8 guard from South Bend, Ind. and a close friend of Bone, is also competing at the trials. The four-day event concludes Thursday with the formal announcement of the team. The eight-team zone-qualifying tournament will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina July 23-27.
The USA Basketball event is the start of what will be a busy summer for Bone. She will compete for Mike Flynn’s Blue Star Select National Team in France later this month and hopes to narrow her list of schools to between 7 and 10 by month’s end.
“(The process has) had its moments,’’ Bone said. “I think it’s very flattering to start out with, but as the days go by and the more you’re into it the less flattering it is. Right now I’ve totally been focused on getting ready for USA Basketball and trying to finish up school. Once I’m done with USA Basketball I’ll go to France with my summer team and play, and once I get back I’ll be looking to start a narrowing things down.’
Bone said she is “very interested’’ in UConn and Tennessee at this point. She also has interest in Maryland, Texas, Rutgers, Oklahoma, Illinois, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Bone averaged 18.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in leading Dulles High to a 34-5 record and a trip to the state Class 5A Region III semifinals last season.
“I’m aiming to make my decision in November with the (NCAA) early signing period, but if I’m not ready then then I won’t make it,’’ Bone said. “It’s totally the biggest decision that I’ve made in my life to date so I’m going to take my time and make sure I don’t make any irrational decisions and that everything goes according to plan.’’
What could be in that plan is a package deal with Diggins. Since serving as roommates at the Youth Developmental Festival in Colorado Springs last June the two have become great friends.
Diggins, who is rated No. 4 in the Class of 2009 by HoopGurlz.com, said she is eyeing Stanford, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, Maryland, Illinois, Penn State and UCLA – “just to name the bulk of them.’’
She admitted that she has talked with members of the UConn coaching staff and said that UConn is also on her list of schools. A package deal with Bone is far from a certainty, but the two are relishing the fact that they are enduring the process together.
“We keep in touch a lot,’’ Diggins said. “She’s an easy person to get along with, a real nice person. Her mom’s a real nice person. So if we both happen to choose the same school that’s great. But I think most of all we’re just supporting each other through this recruiting time because it can be hard. It can be heavy sometimes. But I think having to go through the same experience with another person then that’s helpful.’’
Skylar Diggins lives five minutes away from Notre Dame. There is little doubt where the folks in South Bend, Ind. want her to play college basketball.
But as Diggins, a 5-foot-8 point guard who is ranked No. 4 overall in the Class of 2009 by HoopGurlz.com, gets deeper into the recruiting process she is not feeling any pressure to stay home. She has her list of schools and she is keeping an open mind.
“That’s everybody’s favorite,’’ Diggins said. “So they’re like, `Just stay at Notre Dame.’ The pressure from my mom is really not that heavy. It’s pretty much like, `what’s best for you.’ I think it’s just understanding where you are and what you want and what’s best for you. You have to be totally selfish, if you will, with this decision because it is about yourself.’’
Diggins, who is currently competing at the U-18 National Team trials in Colorado Springs, Colo., averaged 29.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.9 steals and 1.7 blocks to lead Washington High to a 23-3 record and an appearance in the Class 4A championship game last season. She also has a 3.87 grade point average and is looking to pursue a career in orthopedics and sports medicine.
Among the list of schools Diggins is currently weighing is Stanford, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, Maryland, Illinois, Penn State and UCLA. She did not mention UConn, but that does not mean she is not interested in the Huskies.
“UConn is UConn and I have spoken with them,’’ Diggins said. “UConn’s on everybody’s list. I don’t care what anybody says. UConn is on anybody’s list.’’
Diggins plans to make her decision during the NCAA early signing period in November.