September 28, 2011 10:14:00 AM
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- USA Basketball announced Tuesday that Rutgers University women's basketball senior April Sykes and University of Mississippi sophomore guard Valencia McFarland were named Tuesday to the 2011 Women's Pan American Games Team.
The squad will try to defend USA's 2007 Pan American Games gold medal when it plays Oct. 21-25 in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the 2011 Pan American Games.
Sykes, who is from Starkville and who played at East Oktibbeha County High School, is one of 10 college athletes and one high school senior on the U.S. roster, as selected by the USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee. The group will look to the leadership of USA coach Ceal Barry and assistant coaches Jennifer Gillom and Debbie Ryan.
"We have a great variety of players, and I think the selection committee did a tremendous job in a tough time period," Barry said. "It's tough for college players to get away, but this is a group that is versatile and talented. We'll find out once we get to Houston how we are going to fit these pieces together, and I'm looking forwarding to working with all 12 players."
Sykes also was one of 14 finalists for the 2011 USA Basketball Women's World University Games Team.
Last season, McFarland was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. She played in 28 games with 27 starts and was second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.3 points per game. McFarland also ended the year second in free throw percentage in SEC games (79.6).
"I know it's going to be an experience of a lifetime and I'm very excited about it," McFarland said. "I'm going to work hard and go out and play my best."
The U.S. team will open practice Oct. 15 in Houston, Texas. A morning practice Oct. 18 will be followed by the team's departure for Mexico. The squad will log a pair of practices before competition begins Oct. 21.
Sykes is one of three members of the USA team that has prior USA Basketball experience. She was one of 14 finalists for the 2011 USA Basketball Women's World University Games Team.
Sykes, a Second-Team All-BIG EAST selection in 2011, enjoyed a breakout junior campaign in which she averaged 14.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 33 games. She had a team-best 24 double-figure scoring games, and surpassed the 20-point mark in seven times. Sykes scored a career-high 32 points against Boston College, giving the Scarlet Knights their first 30-point scorer in three seasons.
The U.S. women will play in preliminary round Group A with Argentina, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Brazil, Canada, Colombia and Jamaica will make up Group B. Preliminary round play for the women's basketball competition runs Oct. 21, 22, and 23. The semifinals will be Oct. 24. The finals will be Oct. 25.