TORONTO - It took a while for it to really sink in for Villanova's Caroline Coyer that she's part of the U.S. basketball team at the Pan Am Games. It has now, especially since she's just one win away from coming back to the Main Line with a gold medal around her neck.
"Being out here and making the friends I've made, being able to wear the USA across my chest, to represent Villanova, play basketball, and have fun - it's been absolutely incredible," she said.
Coyer got word of USA Basketball's interest in her after the selection committee met in late April. She traveled to Colorado Springs in mid-May as one of 54 college players hoping to earn places on the squads for either the Pan Am Games or the World University Games in South Korea, which took place earlier this month.
The Oak Hill, Va., native has played in two of the Americans' four games so far, coming off the bench in both. Her best performance came in a group stage contest against the Dominican Republic when she scored 11 points in 17 minutes.
But she has been happy to have the opportunity to suit up with with some of the top players in women's college basketball. Among them are Connecticut all-American Breanna Stewart and South Carolina's Tiffany Mitchell, a two-time Southeastern Conference player of the year.
"I've become close with them on and off the court, learned their tendencies and what they are going to want with the ball and how to read them best," Coyer said.
In the gold medal game Monday against Canada, the United States will face a team that has its own share of NCAA stars. The home team is led by Natalie Achonwa, who graduated from Notre Dame in May and now plays for the WNBA's Indiana Fever, and UConn sophomore Kia Nurse, the niece of former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. The Canadians topped Brazil in the second semifinal, 91-63.
"It's personal [for Canada] - they're trying to defend their home turf and grow their program," Coyer said. "We have to show a lot of commitment and focus on our end if we want to pull out the gold."