Windsor Lancers

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Update from Chile: Gold Medal Game Day

Links for tonight’s Gold Medal game against France (6:45 p.m.)
Live Stats
Live Video (fee)
Live Audio

I can't believe we have finally made it to today. We have been working and waiting so long for this opportunity and it's finally here. After a scare versus France in the quarterfinals, we played our best game of the tournament yesterday in the semifinals against Brazil. Bria (Hartley) and Steph (Dolson) both played like college kids and we had great contributions from our young guys. Breanna (Stewart) has put us on her back this week and not allowed us to lose. Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) has found her rhythm and given us another outside scoring threat. But the MVP of the Brazil game in my mind was Ariel (Massengale) who finished with 10 points and nine assists. She completely controlled the tempo and valued the ball against a Brazil defense that was averaging 15 steals a game.

So today is it! We face a very tough team from Spain at 6:45 p.m. tonight. They are smart, savvy, and have an edge. They play very well together on both ends of the floor and find a way to stay in games and then make just enough big plays to win in the end. For us to win, we need to control the pace and play in the full court as much as possible. We need to dominate the boards like we did yesterday (57-33) and work to get the shots we want every possession.

It's really hard to describe how difficult this tournament has been unless you are here to witness the level of play. I'm taking a group made up primarily of high school players and competing against players that are already playing professionally in their own countries. The international style is so different from American basketball. I'm really proud of how these kids have responded to the challenge and put themselves in the position they are today.

Forty more minutes of team basketball and at 9:00 p.m. tonight I hope to be watching our players stand up on the gold medal podium and listen to the National Anthem with tears in my eyes. Go USA!

Make sure to follow us during and after the game on!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Update from Chile: Despite Loss, Goal Remains Gold

Unfortunately, we lost our first game today. The good news is that we still advance to the next rounds, but we do so as the two seed from our group instead of the top seed. It basically just changes the path that leads to the gold medal. From here on out, any loss derails that opportunity.

We've been pretty inconsistent with our play over the past three games. My biggest challenge with this young group is to constantly remind them that up to this point, although they may have won games in their lives because of their talent, they need to have consistent effort, basketball intelligence and toughness to win going forward. Hopefully today's loss allowed that message to sink in a little better.

Canada was the better team today (Wednesday). They set the tempo of the game, used physical play and intelligence to take us out of what we wanted to do. When the game was in question they came out with huge hustle plays. The players were disappointed and I'm hoping they use that as motivation going forward. We watched the game film this evening and pointed out all the areas that we can improve and we defined roles so that everyone knows what they need to do for us to win going forward.

We head out to dinner in a few minutes and then we'll head over to watch the Brazil vs. Australia game since those are our next two possible opponents. We play again on Friday (versus France), time still yet to be determined (6:45 p.m.). Stay tuned for some good news from Chile over the weekend!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Update from Chile: A Little Fun Between Games

Photo Gallery from Orsono Volcano Trip
Japan Game Story
Russia Game Story, Quotes & Stats
Argentina Game Story, Quotes & Stats

We finished up pool play yesterday with a 3-0 record, with wins over Japan, Russia and Argentina. Our defensive effort against Russia and Argentina was much better than Japan. We disrupted flow and created a lot of offense out of our defense pressure. The kids are starting to understand the focus and determination that needs to go into our defense to stop these very talented international teams. We made some great rotations and had a better focus in our box-outs.

Today we went up to see the Orsono Volcano in Encenada, Chile. It was really cold and windy so some of us took a few pictures and then retreated into the warm lodge for hot chocolate. Some of our brave players decided to rent sleds and walk up the volcano for an adventure. It was quite amusing to watch 6’5” Stefanie Dolson and 6’4” Malina Howard sledding down the volcano 100 feet before rolling off their sleds and down another 10 ft. We stopped in the very nice town of Puerta Varas for lunch before heading back to get ready for practice.

We are about to leave for a one hour practice at the arena in preparation for the next round of play. We face China, Italy and Canada over the next three days and need to continue to work hard and improve to make sure we improve our record to 6-0! We will continue to focus on our defense but will also spend time working on our offensive execution because we will be facing a lot of zones and presses as we move forward. Stay tuned on our Facebook and Twitter pages as well as

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Greetings from Chile! Coach Rizzotti and Team USA Win Opening Game

The conditions here have been less than ideal, to say the least. It's cold and rainy and none of the practice gyms have any heat. The kids have been troopers seeing as we've had to practice some days in full sweats and hats. We had two "friendly" games against Russia and Australia to get us ready for the tournament and for future competition. But there is nothing like putting on the uniforms for real like we did this afternoon.

We opened up the U19 World Championships with Japan today at 1:30 pm. There were some good things - we killed them inside (but that wasn't too difficult since there average height was 5'7"), and we spread the scoring around very well. Bria Hartley showed she was a college player by leading us in scoring but more importantly, with her competitiveness. We also had some rough spots. Japan was able to expose us on defense. They are very fast and perimeter oriented so it was a tough match up for some of our posts. But we will face other teams in the tournament that are small and quick so we'll need to find a solution. We also did a poor job boxing out and Japan was quicker to the ball.

Our goal here is clear … we want to win a gold medal. But how we perform and play together are equally important to me. We just need to continue to improve every day and learn to play as a team on both ends of the floor. I look forward our next challenge, Russia, tomorrow at 1:30 pm! Go USA!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coach Rizzotti's First Blog from Chile: Travel Troubles

After a great night with my family on Saturday celebrating my brothers' wedding, I began my journey to Chile to meet the team who had travelled the day before. Well... I'm still going! I arrived in Santiago, Chile at 10 a.m. Monday after taking a red-eye from Dallas where I struggled to sleep. The volcanic ash from the active volcanoes in Chile caused all flights to be delayed and then eventually cancelled. It's a pretty helpless feeling to be stuck in a foreign country, by yourself, with no working phone, and few English speaking people. Not a happy camper.

I did run into the Brazilian national team whose staff, after two years of playing each other, I know pretty well. It was a big relief to be with people who spoke Spanish and could explain what was going on. We also ran into some officials from FIBA and after a few more hours of waiting, we were told that they were getting us a bus to drive the rest of the way. So after getting only a few hours of sleep after the wedding, not getting much sleep on the red-eye, I am now about to embark on a 12-15 hour bus trip over night so that I can arrive in Puerto Montt by mid-day on Tuesday.

So while we wait for the Canadian team to arrive to come with us, I am sitting with the Canadian team doctor and a referee from Egypt having dinner and drinks. At 10 p.m., 46 of us will board a 50 person bus that hopefully has reclining seats. All I want is a shower and a bed.

Meanwhile, the team scrimmaged against Russia tonight. The update I got was that we won fairly easily, our point guard play was good, but our posts were a little soft and in foul trouble. The gym also had no heat and the bus drove over a cable so the clock didn't work. Tomorrow, we scrimmage Australia and I'm hoping to be there!!

Trying to stay positive and promise to keep you posted as long as I have access to my I-pad. After we win gold, this will be a distant memory. Good night.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Final Preparations on US Soil; Coach Rizzotti and USA Basketball Head to Chile

Well, this morning we have our last practice here in the US. We've made quite a bit of progress this week and I feel positive about the direction our team is going. We've worked a lot this week on our defense in the half court and transition. Everyone is coming from different coaches and different philosophies and I appreciate the players working hard to buy into how I teach defense. I do think it will pay dividends down in Chile if there is ever a game where we struggle to score consistently.

We've put in some transition sets and well as half court sets this week and worked on patience and execution. But most of the points our staff has tried to get across were more about the intangibles. We've been pushing the kids to learn to go harder and find a way to be successful outside their comfort zone. We've asked them to learn to focus mentally when their bodies are tired. And we've asked them to respond better to adversity. Our goal last night was to rid ourselves of bad body language and energy draining responses to mistakes. I really felt like the kids made a great effort in those areas and consequently we played our best game against the guys.

The team heads out to Chile tomorrow afternoon, but I need to make a little detour back to Connecticut so I can attend my brother, Tommy's, wedding tomorrow! I am very excited to see my family, especially my two little boys and also see my brother, who has always been my biggest fan, get married. We are happy to be welcoming Marcia into our family.

We'll have a few practices and exhibition scrimmages against Russia and Australia once we get to Chile. There is still a lot of work to get done and I expect we'll continue to improve throughout the tournament as well. It will be nice to be together as a team and I think our team bonding and chemistry building will rise to a whole new level once we realize how everyone in Chile will be rooting against us! Go USA!

I promise to keep you posted throughout the whole thing so stay tuned!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Coach Rizzotti: “I conquered the Incline this morning!”

The Incline is an old rail bed from a no longer existing railway. It's in Manitou Springs and people go there to hike up 2800 railroad ties, which covers 1 mile and goes up to an altitude of 8600 feet. The average grade of the trail is 40% with the steepest at one point being 68%. Sounds crazy, right?

Well, the director of communications for USA basketball, Caroline Williams, Gail Goestenkors from Texas and I decided to hike the Incline this morning (Wednesday) at 7 a.m. We made it, but needless to say, my legs were very tired for practice today! Not sure the picture does it justice, but as tough as it was, the view from the top and the sense of accomplishment made it worth it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coach Rizzotti’s Second Blog from Colorado Springs: Preparing for a Championship Run

Day Two is over. This morning's practice we broke a lot of things down and it seemed as if things were clicking for the players. Then we came back in the evening to scrimmage the guys and it wasn't a pretty scene. Now granted, these guys are really good. They have size, quickness, and skill unlike anyone we will see in Chile. But they are exposing our weaknesses and pushing our team to have to focus and compete at an entirely different level. I'm not sure any of these high school kids have seen anything like it!

We only have five more practices here in Colorado Springs before we take off for South America. We have a lot to do but I've already seen a lot of improvement and have been very happy with our point guard play. Of course I'm biased but you know I think that's the most important position!

Tomorrow morning I'll be getting up early to do the incline. Promise there will be more to come on that!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Coach Rizzotti Blogs From Colorado Springs with USA Basketball U19 Team

Coach Rizzotti returned to Colorado Springs this weekend to begin final preparations with the USA Basketball U19 National Team who look to defend their title at the FIBA Championship later this month in Chile. Throughout her time with USA Basketball Coach Rizzotti will be blogging through the Hartford Women’s Basketball Blog. Be sure to check back often for updates. You can also follow Coach Rizzotti with USA Basketball using the new Hartford Hawks Women’s Basketball Twitter page at


Today we had our first practice for the U19 World Championships. The players arrived to Colorado Springs last night and were eager to go when they showed up this morning. Play was a little rusty and sloppy at times but that's to be expected on the first day. The players also have to get used to the higher altitude - not quite as easy to breathe up here!

I'm fortunate to be coaching players who have all played USA Basketball before so they understand how much we have to get done in a short amount of time. Everyone around the world wants to be the team to beat the US so the target on our back is big but I do believe these players are up for the task. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and my own challenge of getting the best players in the country at this age group to get the most out of themselves and find a way to play together to be the best team in Chile!

By the way, is everyone aware that it's winter in Chile right now!