Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Baylor Lady Bears junior center Kalani Brown and senior guard Kristy Wallace represented the United States and Australia, respectively, as a part of the inaugural U23 Four Nations Tournament in Tokyo.
Team USA took home first place posting a 3-0 record while Australia was named runner-up after going 2-1.
Brown, a native of Slidell, La., was one of 12 players chosen to represent USA in the tournament following a 40-person training camp held in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Brown was a unanimous All-Big 12 Team selection following a breakout sophomore campaign that saw her lead the Lady Bears in five major statistical categories including scoring and rebounding at 15.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
“I’m excited – overwhelmed, really,” Brown told usab.com. “It’s been a while for me to get back to this point, but I’ve been working for this and coming to trials each time I could, so I’m really excited for this opportunity.”
During the training camp, the players were divided into four teams and competed for gold, silver and bronze medals. Brown’s team won gold.
Brown joined a roster composed of women’s college basketball stars such as South Carolina forward A’ja Wilson, Tennessee center Mercedes Russell and Ohio State guard Kelsey Mitchell.
This will be Brown’s third trip with Team USA, competing on the 2013 U16 National Team and winning gold with the 2014 U16 National Team at the 2014 FIBA Americas Championship.
Despite having some international experience, Brown says there are more traveled players on the team and that she can learn from them. “I think it’s important to be a good teammate, to be a motivator and continue to do what helped me get here,” Brown told usab.com. “But there are girls like Mercedes Russell, and she has way more international experience. I’m trying to learn from her. I’m learning just like everybody else is, but anywhere I can give some pointers, I will.”
Brown posted averages of 9.7 points, five rebounds and one block per game for the undefeated USA squad.
Wallace, from Loganholme, Australia, expressed her excitement to compete for her home country, having already won a bronze medal with the U19 Australian Team in 2015.
“It’s a massive honor,” Wallace told baylorbears.com. “I’m really excited to get the opportunity to play in Japan. These opportunities don’t come around too often, so I’m super excited.”
Wallace is coming off of a strong junior season for the Lady Bears in which she was one of three players to start all 37 games in addition to leading the team in both assists and steals at 5.6 assist and 1.3 steal per game averages.
The tournament consisted of four teams: the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada. Wallace noted the strengths of Japan while also pointing out the difficulty of defeating Team USA in an interview with baylorbears.com. “Japanese teams can shoot the ball,” Wallace said. “They’re really quick up and down the floor. Obviously American teams are super athletic and hard to guard.”
Despite falling 78-60 against Team USA, Wallace scored 11 points while also contributing three assists and three steals for Australia. Through four games, Wallace posted averages of 11 points and three steals a game while starting every game.
Brown says international competition has a different feel to it, most notably the officiating, which she favors. “The refs are different,” Brown told baylorbears.com. “They let us play a little bit more. A lot more contact, which is fine by me.”
Sophomore guard Natalie Chou, who appeared in all 37 games for the Lady Bears in her freshman season, was invited to tryouts but did not make the final cut.
Chou has experience with Team USA winning a gold and silver medal at the 2014 FIBA U18 World Championship and 2015 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championship, respectively.