Belleville East sophomore Kaylah Rainey has been selected to tryout for the USA National U16 Basketball Team from May 25-29 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
A total of 150 of the top players in the nation were selected to compete in the tryouts with the top 12 making the United States U16 National Team that will compete in FIBA U16 Championships of the Americas 2017 from June 7-11 in Buenos Aires.
A 5-foot-6 guard who earned first team All-Southwestern Conference and was selected to the Belleville News-Democrat All-Area first team was selected after not being chosen last year.
“My dad surprised me with it one morning and I’m really looking forward to going out and playing my best. Just the experience alone will be great,” Rainey said on Tuesday. “Not being invited last year was a disappointment, but it made me work that much more on my game. I had a good season and when I submitted my information, I was chosen.’’
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Rainey als plays for Midwest Elite, a Chicago-based basketball team which competes in the Nike Girls Elite Youth Basketball League. The league consists of 32 national league teams who compete in 10 summer league games toward a Nike National Championship.
Rainey averaged just under 16 points and shot better than 50 percent from the floor this past season for the Lancers. She averaged nearly five steals, three rebounds and three assists this season and was an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association third team all-state selection.
“The way a player is invited is that you send them a letter with all of your accomplishments on it,” Rainey said. “I know (the tryouts) are going to be a lot of hard work. I’m working with a couple of different trainers who are helping me get ready and then my family is also very proud, happy and very helpful. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Rainey’s dad Lawrence Rainey said both he and his daughter were disappointed when she as not invited to compete last year.
“She took is hard last year, but I think its made her stronger and more determine,’’ Lawrence Rainey said of his daughter. “She didn’t give up on herself. I think it motivated her even more to have a good season in high school and with her select teams. Kaylah works tremendously hard in everything she does.
Rainey is currently working with Dave Ruckman of Pure Sweat of Belleville on her strength and conditioning along with Metro East Lutheran boys coach Anthony Smith. Smith is the father of Edwardsville senior all-state Mark Smith who was chosen Mr. Basketball in Illinois this season and is being recruited by many NCAA Division I powers including Kentucky and Michigan State, Missouri and Illinois, among others.
Belleville East coach Amanda Kemezys said that Rainey is the second East player to be invited to the tryouts. Myriah Noodel-Haywood made it to the final cut two years ago. Noodel-Haywood has since transferred to Edwardsville High School and committed to attend Kansas State University in 2018.
“I’m very excited for Kayla,” Kemezys said. “She is a true leader of this (Belleville) East basketball program and the amount of time that she puts in to make herself and the team better is tremendous.”