Carly Winters is ready to make the most of the opportunity to represent the U.S. on the basketball court. The East Hall High senior went through a rigorous selection process to earn a spot on the USA Student Athlete World Games Tour.
On Monday, she’ll depart for Europe, after a layover in Boston, for a 10-day slate of games through three European countries.
“I am very honored and grateful that I get to have this opportunity,” said Winters, who plays point guard for the Lady Vikings.
Winters, who averaged 15 points per game as a junior for East Hall, will be travelling with the USA squad to Germany, Austria and Italy — a wonderful athletic and cultural opportunity.
Being selected for this squad is a reflection of her basketball ability and academic background, where the East Hall point guard maintains a 3.998 GPA.
Her slot on the squad to represent the U.S. was secured after her performance in a USA Elite camp, phone interviews and letters of recommendation — all aspects she aced with flying colors.
Winters got word she was selected for the squad at the end of a phone interview. Immediately, she shared the good news with her coaches.
“Carly has great character, and you want to help a kid like that,” said East Hall girls coach Justin Wheeler, who wrote a letter of recommendation on her behalf. “I was very happy and thankful and felt blessed that she asked me. She never gets in trouble, her parents raised her right and she is a great leader.”
Also writing a letter of recommendation vouching for her ability and character were Winters’ ninth grade math teacher Kami Wyse, travel basketball coach Nan Bishop and Winters’ trainer Brent Benson.
Winters also had to cover the $4,500 cost of the trip, which she did with generous contributions by local companies, as well as money chipped in by family and friends.
“Her work ethic is like no other,” Benson said. “She gives 110 percent. She pays attention to detail and is very coachable. You don’t have to repeat yourself to her. Any coach in America would love to have her. You can ask her to run through a brick wall and she will do it and ask questions later.
“The sky is the limit for her.”
The senior’s travel basketball coach echoed that sentiment.
“She is willing to do whatever I ask of her to get better,” Bishop said. “She is so deserving of this opportunity. She is a pleasant person to be around and is an all-around good kid.”
Winters, who has already pledged to play at Georgia State, became a captain at East Hall as a junior. Wheeler said Winters immediately embraced the leadership role, going out of her way to build stronger bonds between players. Her list of accomplishments as a Lady Viking include a school record for 3-pointers in a season (115) and 3-pointers in a game (10).
Winters has also surpassed the 1,000 career-points mark with another season remaining.
“She is dedicated, works hard and puts in more work than anybody I know,” former East Hall teammate Kylah Mize said. “She has good ball-handling skills. I looked for her whenever I needed help.”
Wheeler said Winters is the complete package as a high school player: she is a great shooter, has a high skill level and possesses a great basketball IQ.
A memorable moment for Winters was draining the go-ahead 3-pointer with two seconds left on the clock against Gainesville in the Lanierland semifinals.
Early in her career, Wheeler said he had to build Winters’ confidence up to where she wasn’t afraid to shoot from long range. When she was a freshman, Wheeler told her in a game against Franklin County to shoot “seven to 10” 3-pointers. It didn’t matter if she made them or not.
“When I said that, her eyes got big and she said, ‘Really?’” Wheeler said. “Since then she has gotten more confident.”
Winters credits her older sister, Natalie, for cultivating her interest in basketball.
“I used to play with her all the time, and I really liked it,” Winters said. “She helps me a lot and pushes me to be better.”
Natalie, who plays at Piedmont College, was the first to open her sister’s confirmation package to join the U.S. squad that came in the mail. At the time, Carly was on a cruise.
“At first I did not want to open it because she does not like people opening up her mail, but I decided to open it and a huge smile grew on my face,” Natalie said. “I had tears of excitement.”
Natalie discovered her sister’s Team USA jersey with the package and showed it to her while having a chat via FaceTime.