Few ever get the chance to suit up for their country and compete on a national stage.
Senior University of Richmond women’s basketball player Kylee Lewandowski had that opportunity last month when she competed with the women’s FIBA (International Basketball Federation) U23 3x3 basketball team.
“It was an amazing experience,” Lewandowski said. “Just being able to wear USA across your chest and representing in front of a ton of different countries. I never realized how much the title USA holds until you’re around other people from other countries ‘cause you’re always competing all the time when you’re playing, but it’s a different kind of competing when you’re representing your country.”
Lewandowski traveled with the FIBA squad to Mongolia where she began her journey with three games against Poland, Germany and Mongolia Sept. 14.
“Good luck Kylee Lewandowski and Team USA as they begin pool play in the Women’s 3x3 U23 Nations League Final in Mongolia!” UR women’s basketball posted on its Instagram account Sept. 13.
UR Head Coach Aaron Roussell also offered his support on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“Incredible opportunity, so pumped to watch Kylee Lewandowski ball out!” Roussell posted.
In high school, Lewandowski attended 3x3 camps at the Olympic Training Center with some of her fellow Pittsburgh natives. This past summer, she worked as a team lead when trials took place for the U.S. women’s 3x3 team. Lewandowski worked at camps in Colorado Springs and Nashville.
“I knew a lot of the people that ran it because of that,” Lewandowski said. “They would always joke around; they’d be like, ‘listen, Kylee, you play college basketball, if someone gets hurt, we’re giving you a call and you can come play with us.’ I’m like, ‘that’s kind of crazy, but yeah, sure.’”
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While it’s still basketball, Lewandowski said 3x3 is a different style of play than the normal 5x5. Nevertheless, joking around, she went along with what the director of the 3x3 basketball said about her joining.
A couple months later, Lewandowski received a call from the director, asking what she was doing that weekend. A player had gotten injured and he asked if she could fly out to Mongolia the next day.
From there, Lewandowski talked to her coach, expressing that she had the opportunity to compete with USA Basketball in Mongolia.
“Everyone was very supportive,” Lewandowski said. “So, it was less than 24 hours later, they had my flight booked and I was on my way to Mongolia. So it was very fast, quick turnaround.”
Once in Mongolia, Lewandowski had a couple days of practicing to get adjusted to everything and then it was on to competing against other countries. Coincidentally, two of her teammates play for school in the Atlantic 10 Conference and will compete against Lewandowski and the Spiders this upcoming season.
After their games against Poland, Germany and Mongolia, Lewandowski and her team advanced out of pool play and played France in the first round.
Because the U. S. brought over two teams, Lewandowski and her teammates ended up playing in a clash of the U.S. squads in the semifinals. The other U.S. team defeated Lewandowski’s U23 team and went on to win the tournament championship.
Lewandowski said her academic advisor, professors and teammates were all supportive throughout the process, as she had to miss some school early on in the semester.
“I actually give kudos to a bunch of my teammates,” Lewandowski said. “It was a 12-hour time difference. So, if we were playing at three o’clock in the afternoon, that would be 3 a.m. [EST], and my teammates were all up texting me. They’d be like, ‘good luck, good luck.’ I’m like, ‘why are you guys up so early? You have practice the next morning.’”
In 56 games played for the Spiders across three seasons, Lewandowski has tallied 95 points, 11 steals, 9 assists and 63 rebounds. In a 119-55 victory over Longwood University last season, Lewandowski scored 10 points in 11 minutes off the bench.
“I’m excited to be all around the team and all around my teammates,” Lewandowski said. “I feel like we’re gonna be pretty good this year, so I’m excited to see how we compete. Practices are super competitive, super upbeat, and I’m just excited to see how it all unfolds.”
The Spiders are coming off a 21-11 regular season and a trip to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, where the team defeated the University of Pennsylvania in the first round to advance to the second round against the University of Rhode Island. UR opens the 2023-2024 season away against Duke University Nov. 6.
Lewandowski believes there’s still work to be done and that the program cannot take that for granted, she said.
“We saw where we ended last year, and we were hoping we could go farther, but it just shows we just gotta keep pushing at practice, working hard,” Lewandowski said. “It’s not a given that we’re gonna make it far, so you have to work hard every day to keep on pushing and make it there.”
Contact sports editor Jimmy James at email@example.com.
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