Steeled by Team USA, basketball standout ponders her next big move

Aaliyah Crump jumps into a passing lane at the top of the key, comes away with a steal and goes coast to coast for a layup. A short time later, the 6-1 Minnetonka junior guard is connecting on a step-back three-pointer. And she's making it look effortless.

Crump has developed into the No. 6 girls basketball recruit in the nation in the Class of 2025, according to ESPN's HoopGurlz rankings.

Some of that development happened last summer, when she was a member of the U.S. under-16 team that won the gold medal at the 2023 FIBA Americas championship in Merida, Mexico.

It was a grueling 27-day stint with Team USA. She now is reaping the benefits.

"That was the most I have ever been challenged," Crump said. "You are not always going to have a good day. You have to stick with it, move on after a bad day and come back stronger the next day. It really helped my mental toughness."

It also knocked the shyness out of her.

"I used to be an introvert," Crump said. "It made me meet new people, come out of my shell."

Her game speaks for itself. The versatile Crump is averaging 26.7 points per game, more than five points higher than last year, and her team is 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News. She makes 50 percent of her shots, including 40 percent of her three-pointers, and 74 percent of her free throws. She gets 8.4 rebounds and makes 3.4 assists per game.

Her recruiting ranking also rose over the summer. She was No. 9 in her class when she made the U.S. roster.

"Aaliyah is very athletic and oozes with potential," Minnetonka coach Brian Cosgriff said. "She has become a much better communicator with her teammates and coaches."

Crump also elevated her defensive game. She's averaging 5.5 steals.

"I am more confident now that I've played with and against the best players," Crump said. "I've learned to play with and off players better."

Klutch Athletics by New Balance, a sportswear brand developed by Klutch Sports Group founder and agent Rich Paul, in December made Crump its first high school athlete and first female signed to a name, image and likeness deal.

Another big signing is ahead. Crump is closing in on 50 scholarship offers from Division I programs, including the Gophers.

"It's all about building relationships, and I have plenty of time to do that," she said. "I've now played with high-level players. I'm more prepared for college, but I have to keep getting better and more consistent."

Cosgriff expects that to happen.

"Aaliyah is still young. She is just starting to come into her own," Cosgriff said. "She is one of the best players to ever play at Minnetonka."