SIBENIK, CROATIA – Rutgers rising junior Cappie Pondexter (Chicago, IL) and her American teammates struck gold as the U.S. defeated Brazil 71-55 in the gold-medal game of the FIBA World Championship for Young Women Aug. 3 in Sibenik, Croatia.
Pondexter, a 5-9 guard and one of the Americans’ co-captains, contributed two points, a pair of rebounds, one assist and a steal in the victory. She started all eight games of the tournament for the U.S., averaging 5.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.0 assist per contest.
Leading by just eight (59-51) in the fourth quarter, Pondexter scored the Americans’ first points of the final period with a 19-footer at the 6:32 mark, pushing the American lead to double-digits (61-51) and igniting a 10-4 U.S. run that sealed the win. With the victory, the Americans (7-1) avenged their only loss of the tournament, a 73-60 loss to Brazil on July 27.
“I thought the fourth quarter was like a classic heavyweight fight,” stated U.S. head coach Jim Foster (Ohio State). “Both teams had thrown all their punches and were leaning on each other. And whoever got the second wind was going to win the game, and we got our second wind. Seimone (Augustus, LSU) made a big basket or two, Christi Thomas (Georgia) made a big basket or two and Cappie did some very good things for us and that gave us the energy we needed to finish it out.”
The most experienced member of this year’s American team, Pondexter was spending her fourth consecutive summer as a member of the USA Basketball squad. As a co-captain and the team’s starting point guard last year, she helped lead the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2002 World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Tournament in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil. She led the tournament with 6.5 assists per game, adding 8.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per contest. She won a bronze medal as a member of the 2001 U.S. Junior National Team that competed at the FIBA World Junior Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. Following her junior season at John Marshall High School, Pondexter was named to the 2000 U.S. Junior World Championship Qualifying Team, helping the Americans win a gold medal in Mardelplata, Argentina.
Pondexter led Rutgers with 18.3 points and 4.9 assists per game during her rookie campaign, adding 5.1 rebounds per contest to rank second for the Scarlet Knights. An honorable-mention Associated Press and Kodak/WBCA All-American as well as the 2003 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, she also was the first rookie in conference history to earn a spot on the All-BIG EAST First Team. One of 12 finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, which honors the top point guard in Division I women’s basketball, Pondexter also was a member of the BIG EAST All-Tournament Team.
The Scarlet Knights, led by Pondexter, engineered the most dramatic turnaround in Division I this past season, improving from 9-20 in 2001-2002 to 21-8 and a trip to the 2003 NCAA Tournament’s second round.