Close Named Head Coach of 2021 USA Basketball U19 Women’s World Cup Team
Colorado Springs, Colo. – The Michael Price Family UCLA Women's Head Basketball Coach Cori Close has been named Head Coach of USA Basketball's U19 Women's World Cup team, the organization announced Monday. South Dakota State Head Coach Aaron Johnston and Georgia Head Coach Joni Taylor will join Close's staff as assistant coaches.
"I think we put together a really dynamic staff," said Jennifer Rizzotti, chair of the selection committee and Connecticut Sun president. "We have three of the best coaches in the country. Even more importantly, they complement each other really well. With Cori leading the way, as a committee we feel confident about their opportunity to bring home a gold medal from the U19 World Cup. It's a really hard competition to win. I think they're very hungry after missing out on the U18 competition last summer and we feel very confident as a committee that they're going to get the job done."
This marks Close's fourth USA Basketball coaching assignment and third for an international event. She most recently helped the USA to a gold medal as an assistant coach for the 2019 USA team that won a gold medal with a 7-0 record at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup. There, she helped lead Team USA to a world title. She also coached against future UCLA signees Emily Bessoir (Germany) and Izzy Anstey (Australia). She was also an assistant for the 2018 USA U18 squad that finished with a 6-0 record and the gold medal at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, which qualified the U.S. for the 2019 U19s. Prior to that, she was a court coach at the 2017 USA U23 National Team training camp.
"I am so honored to be a part of the USA Basketball Organization," said Close. "It is such a privilege to serve alongside the other great coaches, and to relentlessly pursue the highest levels of excellence. I can't wait to invest in these student athletes, compete together, and hopefully bring home a gold medal. This is one of the most special experiences of my coaching career. Go USA!"
The United States is one of 16 countries selected to compete in the U19 World Cup. The competition is scheduled to take place from August 7-15 in Debrecen, Hungary. Trials to select the 12-member team will be held May 14-16 at Metro State University in Denver, and trials invitees will be announced at a later date.
FIBA held the draw to determine preliminary round groups for the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup on April 28, and the USA was drawn into Group A, alongside Australia, Egypt and Italy for the Aug. 7-10 preliminary round. The USA will open play against Italy on Aug. 7, followed by Australia on Aug. 8 and cap preliminary play against Egypt on Aug. 10. Times will be announced by FIBA at a later date.
Through 10 seasons as with the Bruins, Close has compiled a 215-110 record and led the Bruins to six NCAA Tournament appearances, including an Elite 8 showing in 2018. Close is one of only three coaches (Billie Moore, Kathy Olivier) in program history to eclipse the 200-win milestone, and holds the highest winning percentage of the three (.662).
The Bruins are coming off a 17-6 campaign in 2020-21 that saw them travel to their fifth-straight NCAA Tournament under Close's guidance. UCLA picked up victories over four ranked teams during the regular season and went on to advance to the Pac-12 Tournament championship game against Stanford. Senior forward Michaela Onyenwere earned Associated Press Third-Team All-America honors for the second-straight year, becoming the first two-time AP All-American in program history. Onyenwere and sophomore guard Charisma Osborne picked up All-Pac-12 honors.
The Bruins finished the season ranked No. 12 on the WBCA Coaches Poll, navigating a limited roster throughout the year. UCLA was ranked as high as No. 5 on the AP poll, the highest ranking for the team since a No. 5 ranking in November 2017.