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Boosted by Team USA, basketball star ponders her next big step

Aaliyah Crump jumps into a passing lane at the top of the key, comes away with a steal and goes coast to coast for a layup. A short time later, Minnetonka’s 6-1 junior guard connects on a put-back three-pointer. And she makes it look effortless.

According to ESPN’s HoopGurlz rankings, Crump has developed into the nation’s sixth-ranked girls basketball recruit in the Class of 2025.

Some of that development happened last summer, when she was a member of the U.S. under-16 team that won the gold medal at the 2023 FIBA ​​Americas Championship in Merida, Mexico.

It was a grueling 27 days with Team USA. She is now reaping the benefits of that.

“That was the most I’ve ever been challenged,” Crump said. “You’re not always going to have a good day. You have to persevere, move on from a bad day and come back stronger the next day. It’s really helped my mental toughness.”

It also drove the shyness out of her.

“I used to be an introvert,” Crump said. “It made me meet new people and come out of my shell.”

Her playing speaks for itself. The versatile Crump is averaging 26.7 points per game, more than five points higher than last year, and her team is 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News. She makes 50 percent of her shots, including 40 percent of her three-pointers, and 74 percent of her free throws. She gets 8.4 rebounds and makes 3.4 assists per game.

Her recruiting rankings also rose over the summer. She was number 9 in her class when she made the US roster.

“Aaliyah is very athletic and exudes potential,” Minnetonka coach Brian Cosgriff said. “She has become a much better communicator with her teammates and coaches.”

Crump also increased her defensive play. She averages 5.5 steals.

“I feel more confident after playing with and against the best players,” Crump said. “I have learned to play better with and next to players.”

Klutch Athletics by New Balance, a sportswear brand developed by Rich Paul, founder and agent of Klutch Sports Group, made Crump the first high school athlete and first woman to sign a name, image and likeness agreement in December.

There is another major signing in the pipeline. Crump is closing in on 50 scholarship offers from Division I programs, including the Gophers.

“It’s all about building relationships, and I have plenty of time to do that,” she said. “I’ve played with high-level players now. I’m better prepared for college, but I have to keep getting better and more consistent.”

Cosgriff expects this to happen.

“Aaliyah is still young. She’s just coming into her own,” Cosgriff said. “She is one of the best players to ever play at Minnetonka.”