Windsor Lancers

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


After three weeks of trials, practices, scrimmages, and pool play, the Gold Medal game finally arrived. We watched Brazil come from behind on Saturday against Canada to earn a spot in the Gold Medal game. We defeated Chile in the other semi-final to advance to a much anticipated day of competition. It was hard to find a way to challenge our players after winning our first 4 games by a 40 point or more margin. Plus we had played Brazil twice already so we decided to give them an opportunity to come up with their own game scout as well as game goals so that they would have some accountability in the preparation.

You could see the positive energy of the players throughout the day. We took them to IHOP for a gold medal breakfast and after our scout session we headed over to our last shootaround of the tournament. I think the players were just as excited to be going home as they were to play the game. We had all been in Colorado Springs since June 7th so it was hard to blame them. Many of the player’s families came out to watch the tournament and the stands were filled with anticipation of the culmination of the process as well.

Whenever you coach a team like this, you never know what kind of mix of players you’re going to get. Before I arrived I was nervous that it would be difficult to build chemistry with so many different players from different backgrounds in such a short amount of time. So on the last day, I couldn’t have been more proud of the TEAM we put together. We progressed so much as basketball players, as people and as a team. It was fun to watch things click for this team and see the excitement on their faces when they realized how great they could be. Don’t get me wrong, there were times I had to remind them not to settle or worry about the margin of victory. I challenged them to work to be the best version of themselves and compete against that. And for the most part, they did.

This is the first gold medal in their young careers. I hope there will be many more to come and I’ll be proud to have been a small part of it. It’s exciting to think that there may have been a future Olympian on this team so you can bet I’ll be watching their careers from afar, rooting for their success. As for me, I gained a great deal of experience and will be excited for my next opportunity to coach the U19 World Championship team next summer.

For all that followed, thank you. I hope you enjoyed the experience as well. Now it’s time to get back to Hartford and start getting ready for the 2010-2011 season with the Hawks!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Game Time --- After a Little Fun at Pikes Peak

USA Basketball's FIBA Championships Website

I've been in Colorado Springs for 15 days now and the tournament is about to begin. Today is our last day of practice before our first game vs. Argentina tomorrow (Wednesday @ 5:45 p.m. MST). We had some great opportunities to scrimmage some of the teams that arrived in Colorado Springs early.

Chile and Brazil were the first to arrive. Despite having no one over six feet tall, Chile was feisty and played hard but we had a considerable rebounding advantage. They ran good offense however and showed our post players how in international basketball they really need to be ready to defend on the perimeter. Our players made fast friends with them in the dorms because of their room proximity as well as their open friendliness. They speak a dialect similar to Spanish so they seem to be able to communicate well.

Brazil will most likely be the toughest competition in our pool so getting a chance to see them early was beneficial. They are athletic and passionate. They cheer hard for each other and have a lot of pride in playing for their country. It was good for our players to see. Although we got out to a sizable lead, Brazil's press caused some problems for us late and showed us another area we needed to work on -- handling pressure.

Then on Sunday, we scrimmaged Canada who is the favorite to win the Group A. Many of their players will end up on Division I programs in the US so they play the most similar to us. The game was close early, but our full court pressure and athleticism wore them down in the end.

We played that scrimmage against Canada at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. It was good for our players to see families at the base who had mothers, fathers, husbands and wives overseas fighting for our country. Sometimes they need a reminder that there are more important things than the mall, video games and texting.

After two weeks of double sessions, we gave the players a much deserved afternoon off yesterday. We took the Cog Railway up to the top of Pikes Peak to give the team a chance to see something outside of the Olympic training center. It is the highest cog train in the world and climbs to over 14000 feet. At the top, you can see four different states and over 30 different peaks.

My family arrived Saturday, so my mom and my boys came along for the ride. Holden and Conor were of course fascinated by the train. The players seemed a little bored until we reached Windy Point and they were able to really see the breathtaking view that inspired Katherine Lee Bates' song "America the Beautiful." Then the cameras came out and the sweatshirts went on. The top of the mountain was about 35 degrees so after bundling up, stocking up on snacks and trinkets, we made our way back down to the warmth of Manitou Springs.

It's been a great ride so far, but the best is about to begin. Opening ceremonies for the FIBA Americas tournament is tomorrow at 5:30pm and our first game starts right after. Pool play will consist of games against Argentina, Brazil and Puerto Rico and then the semifinals and finals will be over the weekend. Our players have worked really hard and I'm proud to coach them and represent the USA in these games.

I'll keep you posted!!
Coach Rizzotti

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The team is complete and only nine more days until the Championship begins.

I can't believe I've been in Colorado Springs for a week now.

My trip out was uneventful and then it was a day and a half of waiting for the trials to begin. I was very anxious to get going but ever since that first session, it has been non-stop! After three days of trials, the selection committee narrowed our list down to 16 players. We had a chance to work with that group for a few days before we had to select 12 for the final roster. It wasn't easy because the players competed hard and showed how much they wanted to make the team. It was nice to see how much this experience meant to so many of them.

We named the final roster on Sunday and it was our first day with only one practice. I think the players were very relieved - not just to make the team, but also to only have to practice one time. In the evening, we headed over to Carol Callan's house (the Women's National Team Director) to enjoy some pizza and the NBA Finals game. We had a primarily Celtics crowd with a few west coast kids cheering for LA.

The other group that has been around the Olympic Training Center since we've been here is the U17 National Team, which will be competing in the U17 World Championships in France later this summer. It's been nice to have them around to scrimmage against. The level of competition will certainly help prepare both teams for their respective tournaments. Their coach's have also been a lot of fun to get to know and hang out with.

Of course I can't finish up without giving a shout out to my assistant coach's who have been AWESOME so far, Sue and Joi. As my husband always says, its not easy being my assistant coach, so I have to give them a lot of credit for putting up with me.

I'll be sure to keep you posted as we start scrimmaging some of the other teams coming in for the tournament. Nine more days before it all begins!

Coach Rizzotti

Friday, June 4, 2010

Excitement Right Around the Corner for Rizzotti

I've been asked many times throughout the last few weeks if I'm ready to go to Colorado Springs for the USA Basketball U18 team trials and FIBA Americas U18 Championship. Although May and June is supposed to be our ‘down time’ I seem to keep finding new things that I have to get done before I go. I am fortunate, however, to have a great staff I can leave all my Hartford responsibilities to while I'm gone for the next three weeks. So ... now that it's right around the corner ... YES, I'm excited to head out to Colorado!

It's a unique experience to work with 25 of the very best high school seniors all at one time. These kids will be future college All-Americans, WNBA players and possible Olympians and I will hopefully have a positive impact on building a foundation for their careers. These players have always been the best of the best and we will be asking them to check their egos at the door and try and understand the significance of what it means to represent the United States of America in the sport of basketball.

I'm really looking forward to working with and learning from my staff, Sue Semrau (Florida State) and Joi Williams (Central Florida). We will all bring our own experiences and philosophies to the Olympic Training Center. Together, we will work hard to find the right approach and style that will help the remaining 12 players, that make the team, reach their potential by the end of the three weeks.

We will ask them to work hard, learn quickly, be unselfish yet play with their own sense of style. It will be our job to mesh all of them together in order to put the best team on the floor and accomplish our goal of winning a gold medal.

So, to all of those who've asked, the answer is yes, I can't wait to get started!