Three Gamecocks players named to U.S. women’s national teams

South Carolina's Tiffany Mitchell (left) and Alaina Coates were named to the U.S. women's Pan-American Games team, while USC's A'ja Wilson (right) made the under-19 World Championships squad. (File/L.G. Patterson/AP)

COLUMBIA — A trio of women’s basketball players from South Carolina will be joining head coach Dawn Staley in international play this summer.

First-team All-American Tiffany Mitchell and All-SEC selection Alaina Coates were chosen to play on the U.S. women’s team for the Pan-American Games, while SEC Freshman of the Year A’ja Wilson was named to the under-19 World Championships team on which Staley will serve as head coach.

The trio were part of a South Carolina team which complied the best season in school history, a 34-3 campaign which resulted in the program’s first Final Four berth. They competed over the weekend in national team trials held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Coates and Mitchell were selected from a pool of 51 athletes who took part in the three-day trials. Mitchell led USC in scoring this past season, averaging 14.4 points per game, while Coates led USC with 7.9 rebounds per contest. The Pan-American Games are scheduled for July 16-20 in Toronto, and both players will return to Colorado Springs for the start of training camp on July 3.

“In all honesty, I was mentally preparing myself to not have my name called, but then they called my name,” said Coates, who will be making her debut in international play. “It was just a rush of relief, and I’m excited.”

“It was a sigh of relief,” added Mitchell, who played in the 3-on-3 World Championships last summer. “My first two days went pretty well, but I didn’t play as well my last day. I’m just glad they had the confidence in me to choose me.”

Wilson, a third-team All-American, was USC’s second-leading scorer this past season averaging 13.1 points, and added 6.6 rebounds per game. She was one of 13 players selected from a pool of 34 in Colorado Springs. The under-19 World Championships are set for July 18-26 in Chekhov, Russia, although Wilson and Staley will travel to Alicante, Spain, for training camp beginning June 30.

Staley, who will also be an assistant on the 2016 Olympic team, said the international experience gained by three of her top players “will only help our team in the upcoming season.”