Doug Bruno Writes from Colorado Springs 6/29

DePaul women's basketball coach Doug Bruno is currently in Colorado Springs, Colo. as head coach of the USA Basketball Women's U18 team in preparation for the 2006 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women. The United States is host of the tournament that starts on June 28 in Colorado Springs.

Pool play runs June 28-30 followed by the Medal Rounds, July 1-2. The United States is in Group A with Brazil and Paraguay while Group B consists of Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. The top three teams in the tournament qualify for the 2007 FIBA U19 Women's World Championship in Bratislava, Slovakia. When he has a few minutes, Coach Bruno will check in here with his thoughts and experiences.

Wednesday's Results

Canada 81, Puerto Rico 41

USA 121, Paraguay 56

Argentina 70, Costa Rica 31

June 29, 2006

Finally!!! We played our first game in Pool Play last evening. Our USA team beat Paraguay, 121-56.

Following a great opening ceremony, our team got after it hard. I was very impressed with the effort and willingness to share the ball that our team brought last night. We can not control how good or bad our competition is; we can only control our effort and attitude and both our effort and attitude were awesome. We did miss too many easy shots around the basket, but again, the effort, attitude, and willingness to share were all positives.

It seems like yesterday that we arrived and yet we have been here already more than two weeks. When our team first began practice, they believed that they were at some glorified summer youth basketball tournament. When we first began practice, the players believed that they could behave like spoiled prima donnas. Our coaching staff had to make them understand that this team is all about giving of themselves for Team USA. The first eight days of practice consisted of some serious behavior modification. Finally, after last Sunday's debacle of a morning practice and after 6 1/2 hours on the floor, the team has begun not only to drink our USA Basketball Kool-Aide, but to swallow it. Since Sunday, these young women have been great.

Our jobs have been to convince them that they are the players that have been selected to compete to carry the USA Olympic Torch. Carol Callan and USA Basketball are constantly drilling our coaching staff that this process is all about testing each player's mental toughness. If these young players can not handle tough-love coaching at the18-year-old level, they will never have the innards to compete for the USA Olympic Team.

When we reconvene next summer to go to Slovakia for the 19-year-old World Championships, some of these players will again be selected. However, there will be another tryout next May that will include many of the nation's top college freshman athletes and many of the nations top high school graduates. Because our team made it this year is no guarantee that they will make it next year. USA Basketball is constantly asking: "How many of this year's class will put themselves in position to make the 2012 Olympic Team?" "Who is USA Basketball's next Dawn Staley?" "Who is USA Basketball's next Sheryl Swoopes?" "Who is USA Basketball's next Lisa Leslie?" If we can get two players from this team to make the USA Olympic Women's Basketball Team in 2012, we will have done our jobs and those two players will have done their jobs.

Our present team is made up of four high school graduates about to begin college in the Autumn and eight high school seniors to be. Our four high school graduates are Tina Charles from Christ the King in New York (UConn), Jane Appel from Carondelet High School in Pleasant Hill, California (Stanford), Brittainey Raven from North Crowley High School in Fort Worth, Texas (Texas), and Nikitta Gartrell from Benjamin E. Mays High School in Atlanta, Georgia (NC State). Click here for a complete USA Basketball roster.

Many believe that having the opportunity to coach these players is a great recruiting advantage for Jen Rizzotti, Carol Owens and I. I often believed the same thing. However, USA Basketball forbids any of the coaches from ever mentioning our schools even in passing or in jest. I can wear no DePaul logo gear. In fact I had to buy some new clothes because as men's coach Jerry Wainright is constantly teasing: "Even Bruno's underwear and pajamas have DePaul logos on them." USA Basketball vehemently tells the team that if any of the coaching staff mentions our school that there will be serious consequences.

This environment forces us to teach and coach. This environment forces us to make players take responsibility for their effort or lack of effort. This environment forces us to make players accountable. If anyone thinks that Tina Charles was happy about Doug Bruno's tough-love they are seriously mistaken. As Tina has told me and I well know, DePaul will never see Tina Charles taking a "day off" when DePaul plays UConn. Forcing Tina Charles to work on every trip and not take short cuts will have her more prepared for college but it does not make Tina Charles want to dump UConn and come to DePaul. Geno, you owe me dinner for life.

If any of the high school seniors ever were to decide to come to DePaul, Northern Illinois, or Hartford, they will be making that decision having had the opportunity to "test drive" their chosen college coach. They will be making that decision with full knowledge of how we coach, not because we have been able to recruit them through USA Basketball. And you know what: most of the high school age players still believe there are coaches out there that will let them get away with their short cuts. Hopefully we are getting them ready for the real world of college basketball. USA Basketball is a great coaching opportunity. In no way is USA Basketball a recruiting advantage!

All in all this entire group has really begun to mature and come together. Today we have a bye in pool play. We will practice for 1 1/2 hours if we bring effort and attention to detail. Tomorrow evening we conclude pool play against Brazil. Then on Saturday and Sunday we will begin medal play. Our goal for these young women is to WORK TO EARN GOLD!!! If we can win all three remaining games, these twelve young women will earn their very first USA Gold Medal as Champions of the America's!!!

More to come!

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