NORTH OGDEN — As the 2021 Olympics come to a close, Team USA's junior championships are just beginning.
For Fremont's Maggie Mendelson, she will have the opportunity to represent Team USA in both basketball and volleyball at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the FIVB U18 World Championship.
USA Basketball held team trials for 34 of the top players across the country for its U16 team in June where Mendelson received one of the 12 roster spots. USA Volleyball held its trials for 24 girls in July and recently announced the final roster for their U18 team. Mendelson, again, was extended the invitation to join the 12-member team.
The 2021 USA Women's U16 National Team roster is set.— USABJNT (@usabjnt) June 19, 2021
The 12-member squad will compete at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship from Aug. 16-22 in Santiago, Chile.
Getting to represent your country in not one but two sports is a high feature, but an opportunity like this doesn't come by accident. It wasn't some fluke or an opportunity that was simply given to her; it comes with years of dedication and sacrifice of wanting to become one of the best.
"Anybody that's going to be that good at anything, especially when you have to be sharing between the two sports in basketball and volleyball, you've got to be really good at sacrificing and being really disciplined with your time," Fremont girls basketball coach Lisa Dalebout said. "Her work ethic is elite. Her ability to sacrifice and do what she's got to do to take care of her body and use time efficiently is pretty unique."
Mendelson started playing basketball and volleyball as many kids do: in the driveway or in the front yard with her siblings. It started out as something to do just for fun. Her parents Jenny and Phil played basketball at Weber State, and her older sister played competitive basketball, volleyball and softball, and her older brother swam. Sports was something they all bonded over.
Mendelson really started getting into volleyball when she was 11 years old and knew it was something she wanted to pursue. After years of recreational basketball, or "bad basketball." according to Mendelson, she decided to tryout for club teams when she was 13 and take it more seriously. Since then, her life has revolved around the two sports.
It wasn't until Mendelson's eighth grade year when her parents realized they were involved with something bigger than they ever imagined.
Jenny and Phil didn't know much about volleyball or the volleyball recruiting process; they were told before Mendelson attended a club volleyball tournament in Las Vegas while in eighth grade to send out emails to college coaches inviting them to come watch her play. They never expected the result that happened.
"We sent it (emails) out to some Power Five schools and they all showed up and they all watched her," Jenny said. "We were sitting there at this tournament and they're watching her, an eighth grader. It was super overwhelming and it was kind of that point that we were like, 'Oh, this might be bigger than we think it is.'"
During Mendelson's freshman year of high school at Fremont, she had an immediate impact on both the volleyball and basketball court. She led her volleyball team to an undefeated 14-0 region title and to the 6A championship semifinal game, being named to the first team 6A All-State team. That same year, she helped the basketball team to another perfect 14-0 region title and to an appearance at the 6A championship game.
Her sophomore year for volleyball was pretty similar: another region title, another semifinal appearance and another first team recipient. In total, she had 417 kills, a .318 hitting percentage, 132 digs and 37 blocks. Basketball was a different story.
After teammate and Oregon State commit Timea Gardiner went out with an injury, Mendelson stepped up and became a crucial piece in Fremont's state title run. On the season, Mendelson averaged 14.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.9 blocks, leading her team to a perfect 26-0 record. The team after their dominant season-long performance received an invite to the GEICO National Tournament.
Even with all the awards, the spotlight and national recognition Mendelson received, she manages to stay humble and coachable, remembering there is still more she wants to achieve.
"She's super humble about everything that's going on with her. She's not one for the spotlight, but she always seems to find herself in it," Fremont volleyball coach Alise Bowles said. "She handles herself with such grace. She is an extremely hard worker. And then she's also a really awesome teammate."
Mendelson has been highly recruited by top programs in the country and has decided to pursue both collegiately. She said she has always wanted to play both even when people have tried to tell her to only pick one."It was definitely one of my biggest goals to just play both for as long as I can. It's always been that I want to play at the highest level."
Through this all — managing national, club and high school sports — Mendelson continues to maintain her 4.0 GPA, and these aren't the traditional courses. She has taken every AP and honors class offered to her.
Competing at the highest level in sports for her age and maintaining perfect grades comes with a hefty sacrifice: time.
While her friends are hanging out on the weekends, having parties, or celebrating birthdays, Mendelson is usually at one of her teams' practices or traveling for a tournament. This summer has been especially demanding. Mendelson believes she has only been home for one weekend this summer, but there's nothing else she'd rather be doing. Playing for Team USA is a unique opportunity not many girls are granted.
"It's definitely one of the biggest honors that I've ever had because I feel like it's just more than sports," Mendelson said. "Out of everybody who plays basketball, only 36 girls got the invite for basketball. To be in that group, even in the tryout group, I was so honored to be there."
"She 100% deserves it, and I'm just grateful that people are recognizing how special she is," Bowles said. "She is a generational talent. She's going to be iconic."
Mendelson and the USA U16 Basketball team will report to training camp in Washington D.C. before they head to compete in the 2021 FIBA Americas Championships on Aug. 23-29. Originally, this was scheduled to be played earlier and in Chile. Due to COVID concerns, the games have been moved to Guanajuato, Mexico.
Following the FIBA Americas Championship, Mendelson will come home for about two weeks before reporting to Anaheim, California, for volleyball training camp. The USA U18 Volleyball team will then fly to Durango, Mexico, for the FIVB World Championship on Sept. 20-29.