PIPPA PASSES — Two of Alice Lloyd College women’s basketball players are headed to Scotland with USA Athletes International (USAAI) for the Scottish Friendship Series. Carla Booth and Ariel Nickell are set to compete overseas.
Booth, a native of Warfield, will begin her senior season with Alice Lloyd in the fall. She, along with teammate Ariel Nickell, a three-time Kentucky Intercollegiate Conference (KIAC) Player of the Year and NAIA All-American from Tazewell, Tenn., joined the 10-player team on Thursday to make the first leg of their journey to Aberdeen, Scotland. The team is scheduled to play its first game in Glasgow on Friday.
“This is my first time going overseas,” said Booth. “I’m excited to see what the competition is like. I want to see what it takes to make a living playing ball in another country.”
Booth definitely knows what it takes to be successful on the court here at home. She was a two-time All-State selection at Sheldon Clark High School and a standout on the 2011 Kentucky All-Star Team. The impact of her superior play at the point guard position was felt immediately at Alice Lloyd College with Booth leading the Lady Eagles to the number one ranking in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in each of her last two seasons. She will enter her senior year averaging 20 points per game and over five assists per game, a total that was impressive enough to rank her in the top 10 in all of NAIA Division II.
“It really hit me when the jerseys came in,” Booth said, referring to her official USA Athletes International uniform. “I realized that this is the real deal. I thought I’d never have the chance to wear the USA jersey.”
John Mills, head coach of the Alice Lloyd College Lady Eagles women’s basketball team, said that Booth and Nickell won’t completely understand what an honor and achievement it is to wear that jersey until they’re on the ground in Scotland, traveling from city to city in international competition.
“The reaction of the kids in those places to the USA athletes is what really gets you,” Mills said. “They’ll come up to the athletes and tug on their shorts, shouting ‘U-S-A!’ It really is like nothing else you’ve ever experienced.”
Ariel Nickell, who graduated from Alice Lloyd earlier this month, sees this as an extra-special opportunity. The Lady Eagles, picked as the preseason number one by KIAC coaches, fell in the conference tournament’s opening round. Her inclusion on the USAAI roster, along with her Alice Lloyd teammate, gives her the chance to not only extend her final season, in some ways, but to do so on a much larger stage.
In an earlier interview about her invitation to play on the USA team, Nickell said, “I’m really excited! I think it will be fun and definitely a great experience. I’ve never been anywhere outside of the U.S. The competition there will be tough. I’ll no longer be playing against women in my conference, but the best of the best. I’m excited, honored, nervous … but mostly excited. I think it will help me to grow not only as a player, but also as a person.”
Along with testing their mettle against other super-talented athletes, Nickell and Booth will spend the length of their 10-day stay getting to know the people and culture of Scotland. They’ll get up-close and personal with the cities of Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, among others, and will tour various Scottish landmarks, including The National Wallace Monument, Stirling Castle, and St. Andrews, famous for being “the home of golf.”
For these two young women from small-town America, it will undoubtedly be the experience of a lifetime.
“I am so proud of Carla and Ariel for being selected to the USA Athletes International basketball team,” said Mills. “It is a thrill to be the coach of two very talented young women. I wish them the best on this trip and the journey they each will travel over the next 10 days. May God bless them and the rest of the American delegation.”
Ariel Nickell will represent her country and East Tennessee as No. 0 on Team USA.
On the eve of setting out on this grand adventure, Booth added, “I want to thank everyone for all of their help in making this possible. Thanks to everyone who donated money and encouraged me, not only for this opportunity, but for every opportunity that has helped me get to where I am now in my basketball career. I know I don’t always get to thank everyone, from God to my family and friends and so many special people from Martin County who still check on me … former coaches and teachers. Words can’t express how much I appreciate all of them.”
“A huge thanks goes to Coach Mills, too, for getting me involved with the USAAI,” Booth added. “I hope to go over there (to Scotland) and represent Eastern Kentucky and the USA well.”
Ariel Nickell, eager to return to competitive action, also said, “I want to thank everyone who has helped to make this possible for me. I could not have done this on my own. All the donations, kind words, encouragement, and support have helped me so much along the way. I’d especially like to thank my mom, my uncle Keith, my grandparents, and Coach Mills. Most of all, though, I thank the Lord. He makes all things possible. I plan to represent Eastern Kentucky, East Tennessee, and the USA the best I can!”
The USA Athletes International Scottish Friendship Series runs through May 31.
USA Athletes International, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to giving amateur athletes and coaches the opportunity to participate in international Olympic-style sporting events throughout the world, while also allowing them to broaden their educational and cultural knowledge of the world through the experience.