CINCINNATI — KK Bransford was one of the top freshmen high school girls’ basketball players in the country this past winter.
This summer, the Mount Notre Dame 2022 guard is taking her game to a different level as she competes for USA Basketball’s Under-16 women's team in Chile this week in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
“It’s been very amazing just getting to know the girls and all this talent on one team," Bransford told WCPO Monday. "I am just very happy to play with these girls.”
Bransford had six points, three rebounds and two steals in USA's 114-19 win over El Salvador Monday afternoon at Polideportivo Arena. USA (1-0) plays Chile (1-0) at 6:15 p.m. today.
Bransford has enjoyed her experience in Chile this week and the tournament has strengthened the bonds she has with her teammates.
"I like the scenery," Bransford said of Chile. "The mountains, the water – it’s just been very beautiful.”
Bransford, who helped to lead MND to the Division I state title in March, is one of 12 players for the USA team.
"She has a great attitude about it," MND coach Dr. Scott Rogers said. "It's another opportunity to raise her game."
Six players are from the high school class of 2021, and six will graduate high school in 2022.
"It’s very special," Bransford said. "When I saw my jersey with the USA on the front and my last name on the back – it was something very special to me. I am going to remember this for a very long time."
Bransford, who can play all five positions but is playing point guard - her natural position - this week, was chosen among 18 finalists who competed in a four-day training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in May. She is the only player from Ohio on the U16 roster.
Bransford made new friends in Colorado Springs and was able to go to the movies, restaurants and play laser tag with her teammates.
“It’s an incredible honor for KK to be a part of this year’s USA team and carry on the tradition of Ohio players contributing at a high level to USA Basketball in their quest for gold medals,” said Bryce McKey, director of the Ohio Girls’ Basketball Report.
“KK played extremely well at the tryouts in Colorado Springs and showed her ability to score along with her court vision and her ability to thrive in any system due to her ability to rebound and defend.”
Bransford averaged 15.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.7 steals for the Cougars (27-2 in 2018-19) last season. Her work ethic is always apparent. A day before she left for Chile, Bransford was in the gym putting up shots. She never stops trying to improve, Rogers said.
MND defeated Pickerington Central 52-31 in the Division I state final March 16 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. The Cougars tied a state record by winning their seventh state girls’ basketball title.
“This experience caps off her breakout season as a huge part of a state championship at MND,” McKey said.
The USA team will compete in Group B at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, along with host Chile, El Salvador and Mexico. In Group A will be Brazil, Canada, Ecuador and Puerto Rico.
All eight national teams will advance to the quarterfinals on Thursday with the semifinals Friday and the gold medal game on Saturday.
The top four finishing teams at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship qualify for the 2020 FIBA U17 World Cup that will be played in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.