For the second summer in a row, De’Janae Boykin expects to be traveling to Colorado Springs, Colo. for USA Basketball training camp.
The Charles H. Flowers rising senior was one of 12 girls out of 145 to qualify for the national team competing in the Under-17 World Championships in Plzen, Czech Repulic. She is one of six girls returning from last year’s U-16 team that won gold in Cancun, Mexico.
Boykin said she expects a similarly fun experience this time around, only she’ll be healthier than she was last year.
“Two weeks before the trials, I got hurt. I sprained my MCL and I was just so scared,” Boykin said. “So when I got down to trials, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to make the team. I wasn’t in full shape. I wasn’t 100 percent.
“I still kept my composure and I guess I went out there and played pretty well. I made the team, and then we came up for training camp and training camp was pretty fun. It was hard but you got to work.”
And since last summer a lot has changed for Boykin. She was named the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year in March after averaging 21 points last season for the Jaguars and she committed to playing basketball at University of Connecticut.
“[In] September, we had our home visits, and [UConn coach] Geno [Auriemma] came here,” Boykin said in describing how she narrowed her decision down to one school. “He didn’t come here in all the fancy stuff. He came here in a regular truck.
“He’s really down to earth. He’s not as mean and all this, as cocky as everybody says he is. He’s actually just a really nice and genuine person. And I fell in love with his personality and the way that he coaches. He told me that I have to come in and work for what I want and work for my playing time which I respected because I didn’t want anything to be given to me. So, I just felt that was the best place for me.”
She also said that two of her national teammates will also be joining her in Connecticut.
Her coach at Flowers, Patrice Frazier-Watson, said that every team needs a player such as Boykin in order to succeed and raise the level of play around them.
“That’s the expectation,” Frazier-Watson said. “Having others to rise up, but who wouldn’t want a teammate like that. We’ve had players in the past that definitely had talent and skill. It overall helps your team. I don’t care who you are. Lebron James or DJ, everybody needs those type of players.”
Most of last year’s team returns and Boykin believes that they can still contend for a state championship.
“Of course, the team that’s finally stopping us is Eleanor Roosevelt,” Boykin said. “They’re returning all of their players as well, their starting five, and so are we.
Roosevelt was the only team to defeat Flowers last seasono.
“I just feel like we have to come out and we have to play together — actually play as a team. And we have to learn to work together which is probably one of our hardest things — trying to come together. With me being the biggest player on the team, and just having to do a lot, having such a big role.”
Because of her participation on the U-17 national team, Boykin isn’t playing in summer league.
She admits that the team’s chemistry may be off a little bit once she returns and that they’ll work on getting it back in November.
Frazier-Watson said she isn’t concerned about the chemistry.
“We work on individual skills and we go and run up and down the court and work on those individual skills,” Frazier-Watson said. “They’re still a tight-knit group. So, as long as everyone is working on individual skills, it doesn’t take long to connect it. Especially when the kids genuinely like each other outside of basketball.”
The USA women’s basketball U-17 training camp is scheduled to start Thursday. The team opens the tournament on June 28 against China.