Columbus North junior Ali Patberg already has agreed to represent the Notre Dame women’s basketball team after she graduates from high school.
Now, though, she might have an even bigger calling. She might be asked to represent her country.
Patberg has been invited to try out for the USA Basketball U18 team May 24 to 26 in Colorado Springs, Colo. About 35 players received invitations to the tryouts, from which a 12-player team will be carved out that will begin training July 25 for the FIBA Americas Under-18 Women’s Championship on Aug. 6 to 10 against teams from North, Central and South America. The U.S. will compete in Colorado Springs against teams from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico and Puerto Rico. FIBA stands for Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball.
The U.S. team will be coached by South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who will be assisted by Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico and Louisville coach Jeff Walz.
“I really didn’t believe it,” Patberg said. “It’s a big honor. I’ve always dreamed about that, to be able to show people what I am made of. I’ve never been in an environment with all the best of the best, to be able to show I can compete with them.”
Columbus North head coach Pat McKee received a mailed package that announced Patberg’s invitation.
“This is a great honor just to be invited,” McKee said. “These will be the best players in her age group in the nation. Historically, the girls from Indiana who have been invited have fared well later. People like Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock of the WNBA) and Kelly Faris (Connecticut Sun).”
Patberg, who has 1,275 career points and averaged 18.3 points a game for the Bull Dogs this past season, is 18 points from setting a North career scoring record (Tina Bolte scored 1,292 from 1999-2003 for the Bull Dogs). However, McKee said Patberg’s all-around point guard skills will be on display at the tryouts.
“She really is a pass-first mentality kid,” McKee said. “Great players will love playing with her because she gets them the ball in spots where they can finish.”
Ron Patberg, who is a North assistant and who coaches his daughter’s club team, Indiana Elite, with Damon Bailey, said she has a different role on her club team than her high school squad.
“She is pass, pass, pass,” Ron Patberg said of his daughter. “Her mindset is not to score first. She really is a play-making point guard.”
If she doesn’t score a lot of points in the tryouts, does she need to go out of her way to be noticed?
“That happens in these events,” Ron Patberg said. “People try to showcase what they are doing, and sometimes they go beyond what they are capable of doing. When the caliber is higher around her, she does not have to score. But I do think she has to take advantage of opportunities to score. I would tell her, ‘Just be the player who you are.’”
Ali Patberg just wants to play hard at the tryouts and let the chips fall where they may.
“It’s just the competitor that I am that I don’t want to just go there,” she said. “I want to make the team.
“I’m not 6-foot-1 and I can’t touch the rim, but I get people involved well. I’m just going to play aggressive. Obviously, I’ve done something to get where I’m at.”
Atlhough making the team is the goal, Ron Patberg said he doesn’t believe his daughter will put too much pressure on herself.
“Naturally, this is an opportunity to play against kids who are the best in the country,” he said. “But I think she sees this as an opportunity to get her game better. Obviously, there is a lot of prestige of being one of those selected. She sees this as a reward for the work she puts in every day in the gym. It’s something that is very important to her. It’s a stamp of validity for all the hard work she has put in.”
Ron Patberg said his daughter doesn’t have to score to stand out.
“She has the advantage of being a 5-foot-10 point guard who is strong. She has that ‘Wow’ effect.”
The tryout process will include a 3-on-3 tournament, position work, USA team strategy sessions and scrimmages.
“I think this will be a fun thing for her,” Ron Patberg said. “She puts a lot on her own shoulders, and that sometimes holds her back. Her biggest thing is being perfect, and you are going to have failures. Sometimes she puts too much pressure on herself to be perfect.
“But I think something like this will propel her forward. Getting opportunities like this is important to her. It is something she strives to do. I’m excited for her.”
Ali Patberg is excited to represent Columbus with the chance of eventually wearing the USA uniform. “Just to represent Columbus in itself, that is great,” she said. “It’s almost too much to take in. I don’t think I really will know how huge this is until I get there.”
She hopes the experience will help her to move even a notch higher as a player.
“It gives me more confidence that I am a good player,” she said.