SPILIMBERGO, Italy - Vanderbilt rising sophomore Kayla Overbeck and her United States teammates will begin their quest for the FIBA Under-19 World Cup championship Saturday in southern Europe.
Overbeck, a 6-1 forward from Newbury Park, Calif., and her teammates will face Mali this Saturday as preliminary round play gets under way in northeast Italy. Tipoff is 11:30 a.m. CT.
The United States squad also has two additional preliminary round games scheduled: China on Sunday and Italy on Tuesday. World Cup medal-round action starts July 26, continuing to the eventual title game on Saturday, July 29.
Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White, who played for USA Basketball in 1997 as a Purdue undergraduate, can't wait to watch Overbeck. She plans to be in the gym when the US-Mali game.
"I'm so proud of KO," White said. "To make the team the first time you try out for USA basketball is a big deal. Just the opportunity KO has to represent her country is amazing and to travel the world is an incredible experience. Then, she gets to play against the best in her age division.
"She's going to grow so much. Any time I've had a player return from international play, they come back with more confidence and simply better from a skilled development standpoint. Just getting a chance to work with different coaches will help her grow as a player," White added.
Overbeck and her USA teammates were undefeated this week in U19 exhibition games, defeating Spain, Italy and Latvia. A strong defender, Overbeck started against Italy and accumulated five points, 10 rebounds and three assists in the three games.
Overbeck, a SEC All-Freshman recipient this year, is thrilled to be a member of U19 national team. "It's really exciting, because it is what I dreamed about when I was a kid. To be able to reach it is like a dream come true," she said.
Overbeck enters international competition off a huge freshman campaign. Her 7.2 rebounds per game ranked second among Commodores and paced all SEC freshmen. She also averaged 9.4 points, leading the Commodores with a .518 field goal percentage.
The USA has captured six consecutive U19 women's World Cup titles. They are 73-12 in the U19 competition. The Americans captured the 2015 U19 World Cup Junior World Championships with a 9-0 record.
Overbeck is the first Commodore woman to participate on the USA U-19 team since Christina Wirth helped America win the 2005 World Cup.