Rogers freshman guard Ellie Buzzelle recently looked down at her jersey and stopped to reflect for a couple of seconds.
Buzzelle wears jerseys a lot whether it’s playing for the Royals or her AAU team, the Minnesota Fury. This jersey was different though. Buzzelle was not in Minnesota and the jersey did not have “Royals” or “Fury” on the front. Instead, the jersey Buzzelle was wearing had three big letters on it as she took the court in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“One of my favorite parts of Thursday was stepping onto that floor for the first time and putting on that USA jersey,” Buzzelle said. “Something about that gets me and just makes me realize how lucky and blessed I was and am to be able to have a moment like that. I’ll never forget it.”
Considered by many as a top guard in the 2022 class, Buzzelle was one of 144 players from eighth to tenth grade who were at USA u16 Trials from May 23-27 in Colorado Springs, the United States Olympic Training Center. Alongside Minnesota Fury teammates Callin Hake and Mallory Heyer, the trio arrived at USA Trials, hoping to make a splash on the court alongside some of the nation’s best girls basketball players in the country, themselves included.
“I think before I came in the room with all those girls I felt some nerves for sure,” Buzzelle admitted. “They showed us a few videos about how important it is to wear ‘USA’ across your chest and after those videos, I think it hit me how blessed and honored I was to be there because many girls don’t get the chance that I have had.”
Through the weekend, the 144 girls were split into two groups, beginning Thursday night with a parent/player meeting about USA Basketball and how it important it is to represent your country. From there, the groups went through drills, techniques of basketball, and also had special guests to talk to them about leadership skills. The next days were more basketball-centric, with cuts happening throughout the process to get down to the final 18-player roster.
“Obviously the basketball part was what we mainly focused on but there are also times you just gotta take some time away from basketball and forget about the pressure and stress that comes with it,” Buzzelle said. “My favorite off the court experience was definitely touring Colorado. It was just nice to forget about everything for a couple of hours and enjoy the time we had. Colorado is the most beautiful state I’ve ever been to and to just see it in person was incredible.”
The final 18-player roster included just one Minnesota athlete in Maya Nnaji of Hopkins High School. Although Buzzelle and her AAU teammates didn’t make the final roster, they will continue to see a lot of each other this summer. The Fury team that Buzzelle plays on qualified for Nationals after an impressive Spring season. The National tournament will take place at the end of July as part of a summer regime that will keep Buzzelle in the gym working on her game. The best part of Buzzelle’s summer though is when she is back at Rogers High School.
“I have training, practices, tournaments, and more calls and visits to do for colleges,” Buzzelle said. “As much as I love doing all those things, I also need time to have fun. For me personally, having fun involves giving back to the community. I take those camps very seriously knowing I was there one day and I was looking up to the players that were before me. For me to have that opportunity is something I take seriously because I know they want to be just like us. That week of camp is easily my favorite week of summer.”
This year’s camp takes place June 17-20 with varsity coaches and players mentoring the youth players all day long. In the fall, Rogers coach Greg Amundson and his coaching staff will begin another season, trying to improve on the 10-17 record from the 2018-19 season. The Royals will be in a new conference — the Northwest Suburban — with new competition. Rogers also lost four seniors, leaving room for many underclassmen, including Buzzelle, to step up and lead the Royals for years to come. Though only a sophomore, this will be Buzzelle’s fourth year on the varsity team, averaging 13.9 points per game last season. For now, though, Buzzelle’s on the court focus belongs to the Fury.
“We’ve had so much fun and success together and to continue that is something I’m super excited about,” Buzzelle exclaimed. “We were not just satisfied with a State Championship, we want that National Championship even more.”