Prized prospect, Frederick resident Ivanna Wilson-Manyacka, 15, named to USA U17 hoops team

Nothing like getting a trip to a different country as a birthday present.

Granted, in Ivanna Wilson Manyacka’s case, it was a business trip, not that she minded that detail one bit.

On May 26, the day she turned 15, Wilson Manyacka learned she had earned a spot on the 2024 USA Basketball Women’s U17 National Team, which will compete in the 2024 FIBA Women’s World Cup from July 13-21 in Irapuato and León, Mexico.

“That was a good birthday present to myself,” said Wilson Manyacka, a Frederick resident and former Monocacy Middle School player who completed her freshman season at Bullis School in Potomac this winter. “When I was out there, I was just praying that I stayed until my birthday because obviously you can get cut before.”

One of 42 players chosen to participate in four days of trials at Colorado Springs, Colorado, Wilson Manyacka survived the first cut that whittled down the pool of candidates to 22.

Then, after the finalists made their last push for a coveted spot, she sat in the bleachers as names of the 12 team members were announced in alphabetical order, increasing the suspense for someone whose surname starts with a W.

“I was so nervous,” Wilson Manyacka said. “I think I was the second-to-last person to get called. So I’m hearing my friends’ names and all that stuff, I’m just waiting.”

Finally, she heard her name called.

“I couldn’t celebrate because I was in a room with people [who wouldn’t make the team] and I didn’t want to make them feel bad,” she said. “So I just waited because after she was done calling the last names, they walked out.”

That’s when she got to celebrate, right?

“Just a little,” she said. “And then she told us what we needed to look forward to when we come back in July.”

Wilson Manyacka is the youngest player on the USA U17 team. She’s one of four 15-year-olds and five players who will be playing their first major tournament in a USA jersey.

“It’s a really big blessing,” she said. “I’m super grateful for this opportunity.”

While the 6-foot-1, athletic Wilson Manyacka has been a highly touted prospect since she was at Monocacy Middle — she’s already received 40 Division I scholarship offers and has yet to commit — she wasn’t hampered by overconfidence.

“I was obviously a little nervous because it was 17U instead of 16U, so obviously it was bigger and girls that were more experienced and stuff like that,” Wilson Manyacka said. “So I didn’t know if I would have a chance.”

All she could do was go full throttle each day at the trials, showcasing the blend of forward and guard skills that make her the quintessential small forward. She can slash, break out post moves, block shots, bring the ball up the court and nail jumpers. She’s been sharpening the latter skill, among others, since her relatively recent days of dominating with Monocacy’s Mid-Maryland AA Varsity team.

“My pull-up got better. I think I’m a little more consistent than I was before,” said Wilson Manyacka, who’s also honed rebounding, defense and attacking the basket.

At the trials in Colorado Springs, Wilson Manyacka played at the 4 and 5 positions, which were both unfamiliar to her.

“They want to see how versatile you are and how you can play multiple positions,” she said. “So you’ve just got to say yes to the challenge.”

Likewise, now that she made the team, Wilson Manyacka is now looking to either start or be an impact player for the USA team, which holds a 40-1 all-time record at the FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup, winning six gold medals, and will play in Group C against Australia, Puerto Rico and Croatia.

“Because if you’re on the USA team and you make it and you don’t get as much minutes, you’re not getting the best experience that you could possibly get while being on the team,” she said. “So that’s my goal.”