University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes’ Katie Meier grooming next generation of U.S. talent

By Kristen Spillane

kspillane@MiamiHerald.com

Katie Meier
Katie Meier

For some, the summer months are a time of rest and relaxation, for lazy days spent at the beach with the latest best-seller.

But for Miami Hurricanes coach Katie Meier, her summer reading is a playbook.

Meier, entering her ninth season as the coach of the women’s basketball team, will take the helm of the 2013 USA Basketball U19 World Championship team.

Since her first season with USA Basketball as coach of the 2012 U18 National Team, Meier has coached athletes to gold medals and championship titles — including the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.

Meier, along with her assistants — fellow collegiate head coaches Nikki Caldwell of Louisiana State University and Kelly Graves of Gonzaga University — will travel to Lithuania for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship from July 18-28 in the cities of Klaipeda and Panevëžys.

Mix of old and new

The U19 squad includes three returning members of Meier’s gold-medal 2011 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship team: 2011 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year Breanna Stewart of Connecticut, teammate Morgan Tuck and Alexis Jones of Duke.

“I think we have a tremendous amount of size, and it’s going to be a challenge for me to make sure that we’re utilizing it well,” Meier said of her team, which is diverse in experience but consistent in stature.

“We could potentially have a lineup where we have one point guard and everyone else on the court is 6-3 or taller; that’s just enormous.”

In addition to veterans Stewart, Tuck and Jones, eight players will return to international competition for another gold medal: Candice Agee (Penn State); Bashaara Graves (Tennessee); Linnae Harper (Chicago Whitney Young); Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut); and Manvel (Texas) High standout Brianna Turner.

Following impressive performances at the national trials held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs,  four high school players fill the remaining spots  on Meier’s 12-woman roster: Nia Coffey of Hopkins (Minneapolis); Gabby Green of St. Mary’s College (Oakland, Calif.);  Kelsey Plum  of La Jolla Country Day (Poway, Calif.); and A’ja Wilson of Heathwood Hall (Hopkins, S.C.)

“I’m just excited, I’m glad that there’s at least five kids that I coached last summer, they’re on the team again, and they’re great veterans,”  Meier said. “Then there’s a lot of youth, players that are still in high school, just finished their junior year in high school, that’s very surprising … but they were very, very good at the trials. That’s part of the challenge as well.”

With the official roster announced May 19, Meier and her staff have just a few short months to pull together some of the nation’s best talent, from all experience levels and backgrounds, into one cohesive unit to represent the United States.

The team will first travel to  the Canary Islands to play Australia, Canada and Spain from July 11 to 14.

Communicating

Meier will employ her distinctive coaching style — encouraging open and  frequent communication — with her U19 squad just as she has done with the Hurricanes since 2005.

“It’s really something … obviously, they come from phenomenally well-coached programs, and I’m not going to mess with anything that their college coaches have done with them,” Meier said.

“I have a very short amount of time to try to win a gold medal — we could possibly play nine games in 12 days — you know we can’t be too in depth, and too complicated, offensively or defensively.”

Off the court, Meier aims to keep the team attitude light and fun, letting her players,  including stars such as Stewart, “be as goofy as anyone” to make everyone comfortable.

Meier’s focus on communication has obviously paid its dividends since taking charge at UM.

As head coach, Meier has brought national attention to the program.  She coached  the team to 40 consecutive home wins, a streak topped only by Stanford for  the most home wins in a row through the 2011-12 season. Meier has been named Associated Press National Coach of the Year for the 2010-11 season, ACC Coach of the Year and WBCA/Russell Athletic Region 2 Coach of the Year.

 Despite all  her personal success, Meier insists that  she has one main focus: her players.

 When asked about the potential for Olympic coaching opportunities, Meier said, “I don’t think anyone turns down a chance to coach in the Olympics.”

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