Charles Nailen/The Hoya Brunson helped carry the American squad to the gold medal game at this summer’s Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic.

Rebekkah Brunson, currently a senior, apparently made quite an impression after claiming a spot on the Big East First Team and leading the conference in double-doubles with 16. She averaged 16.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game as a power forward and led the team to a 15-14 record, and USA Basketball turned its head in attention.

Brunson received one of 60 invitations to Colorado Springs, Colo. to compete in trials for American squads playing at the World Championships for Young Women and the Pan American Games. The committee selected Brunson as one of 12 players to travel to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic in order to take on some of the best female basketball players in the Americas. Brunson was the first female from Georgetown to play for a USA Basketball team.

Having competed in Europe one previous summer with the Big East Summer All-Star team, Brunson had some experience having to travel and play other international squads. The 12 young women met up in Boston in mid-July to begin practicing under the auspices of University of Virginia’s women’s basketball coach, Debbie Ryan. Other players hailed from such prestigious programs as Duke University, University of Texas and the 2003 NCAA champion University of Connecticut.

“We worked well together. It was great playing with some of the best collegiate athletes, and it wasn’t difficult to transition to the team and get into a rhythm,” Brunson said.

Before heading to the games in the Dominican Republic, the team journeyed to Cuba for some exhibition games. The poverty and lack of necessities the people faced on the island struck Brunson as a sharp contrast to conditions back in the States.

“Cuba was an eye-opener,” she said. “Small things that we take for granted here, like washing your toothbrush, just aren’t there. The difference between the two places was the biggest thing I learned from the trip.”

When the team arrived in Santo Domingo, they stayed in the athletic village and soaked in the environment, sharing the facilities with some of the two continents’ premier athletes. The team had the chance to mingle with some of the other English-speaking women’s basketball teams, such as the Jamaicans and the Canadians, Brunson said.

In the first game, Brunson grabbed a team-high nine boards, but USA still ended up on the losing side against the strong Cuban team. Cuba won the game 84-62. Brunson completed a double-double, scoring 12 points and pulling down 10 boards as the Americans redeemed themselves with a close 56-53 victory over the Canadians. Brunson also played a key role in victories against a tough and tall Brazilian team, coming up with eight straight points in the third quarter. She then powered her way through victories against Argentina and the Dominican Republic, helping Team USA clinch a berth in the medal round.

In the semifinals, Brunson added 11 points to the scoreboard, helping the Americans slip past the Brazilians in overtime, 75-69. The victory marked the first time since the 1987 Pan Am Games that an American team has reached the gold medal game in women’s basketball. Unfortunately, the team’s luck ran out. Falling to the Cubans for the fifth consecutive time, the Americans had to settle for silver after a 75-64 loss.

“The Cuban players were older and more experienced, so it was difficult to match them,” Brunson said.

Team USA has captured six gold, four silver and two bronze medals throughout the history of women’s basketball at the Pan Am games. Brunson was proud to represent her country and hopes that she is offered the opportunity again some day.

“Putting the uniform on, you get a great feeling. I hope I can play for the USA again, but if not, I know that I had this great experience to remember.”

While Brunson’s Caribbean adventures have ended and she has returned to the Hilltop, she says she has gained valuable on-court experience from the games and hopes she can bring another dimension to the team this coming season.

“Getting the chance to practice with such good players allowed me to improve my game. I’m hoping that I can bring something back that will help me in the games and that I can share with the other players on the team. I hope that I can lead the team this season past the NIT and onto NCAA tournament.”

After her experience trying out, practicing and playing, does Brunson harbor any regrets? It seems the answer is no.

“Altogether, it was a great experience.”

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