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Wasilla’s Layla Hays invited to Team USA U18 tryout and selected to play in Adidas All-American Game

by | May 13, 2024 | Basketball, Cover Story, Prep Spotlight

Wasilla’s Layla Hays shoots a turnaround jumper. Photo by Bruce Eggleston/MatSu Sports

If a broken foot didn’t stop Wasilla High’s Layla Hays from taking the court for the state tournament, then nothing will come between her and a Team USA tryout.

The only thing she must overcome is her nerves because this will be the rising senior’s first experience with the national team. Suiting up for Team USA is every player’s hoops dream, so you’ll have to excuse Hays for being a little freaked out.

“I am super excited,” she said. “I’ve looked up to so many athletes that have tried out for Team USA and it’s hard to believe that I’m going.”

Hays is the only Alaskan among the 26 players nationally to receive an invitation to this week’s five-day tryout in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The tryout will determine who represents Team USA at the FIBA U18 Women’s AmeriCup next month in Bucaramanga, Colombia.

“It’s kind of nerve wrecking but I’m up for the challenge,” Hays said.

This is one of those times in life when just getting invited is a big deal because it validates her status among the finest Class of 2025 players in the country.

“This is a huge honor,” she said. “I want to make my community proud.”

The 6-foot-5 Hays is going to make the team, not make friends. But anybody who knows Hays knows that will be impossible. Nice on the court and nicer off it, she is warm and engaging.

Easy to like, but not easy to defend. Hays is spry for her size, plays big around the rim and proved to be tough as nails after she played through the postseason with a broken foot and helped Wasilla win a Class 4A state title season.

Despite playing basically on one leg, Hays accumulated a total of 25 points, 33 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in three games at the state tournament.

“I broke my foot in February in a home game against West Valley and I thought that I just tweaked it, but it kept getting worse, so we got an X-ray right before state and I found out it was broken,” she said. “Still had to play though.”

Hays, who averaged 16.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots in 21 games last season as a junior, was recently medically cleared to resume basketball activities and since then has been training in preparation for the Team USA tryout in addition to the Adidas All-American Game.

Hays has previous experience playing in elite-level showcases in Chicago and New York City and holds dozens of offers from Power 5 programs such as Iowa, Duke, Utah, Tennessee, Oregon, Colorado and North Carolina.

Even with those offers in hand, she will still play like she has something to prove. Maybe it’s coming from Alaska that makes local players compete with a chip on their shoulder when they leave the 907 area code to face national competition.

Alaskans are used to getting overlooked, but Hays won’t be sneaking up on anybody.

“I’ve played with or against every girl (I saw) in New York with Nike and my freshmen year with Bluestar,” Hays said. “They’re great players, so I’m looking forward to the competition. I’m excited to even have the opportunity.”

In 2016, Fairbanks’ Ruthy Hebard was the first Alaskan to play for the U18 women’s national team and helped Team USA win a gold medal at the FIBA Americas tournament in Chile. The Americans beat up Canada 109-62 in the championship game as Hebard scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds.

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