INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Grace Berger never thought she would get an opportunity like what she had this past summer.
Berger was invited to tryout for the Team USA to compete in the 2021 AmeriCup.
The Indiana guard earned a spot on the 12-team roster, and she spent her summer winning gold in Puerto Rico.
Berger helped Team USA go a perfect 6-0, and she averaged 5.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 42.3 percent from the floor and 81.8 percent at the free throw line.
Her best game came in the quarterfinals against the Virgin Islands where she scored 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“It was an unbelievable experience," Berger said at Big Ten Media Day on Friday. "It was very surreal. Something I never thought in a million years I would get the opportunity to do. So, just to be able to compete with the best players in the country and get coached by a great coach in Dawn Staley, I think will really benefit me in the future."
Her teammates and coaches have already noticed how that experience has helped her.
Head coach Teri Moren knows Berger is an already confident player, but she noticed "a whole 'nother level" of confidence after returning from Puerto Rico.
"I can tell you this," Moren said Friday. "No one has worked harder than she has on her game and deserved the opportunity to play for the US of A more than Grace Berger. We were thrilled for her obviously. It did a whole lot for her confidence, without question."
Fellow backcourt teammate Ali Patberg has seen Berger grow every offseason, so she doesn't think it's been any different than what she's used to seeing, but Patberg knows the experience was valuable.
“I think that was a great experience for her. She got to play with really, really talented players. She got to work with the best coaches in the country, so she’s gonna get better," Patberg said. "I think it’s just the constant, every day, Grace is coming to work hard. She always get better, and I’ve seen that since she first got here at IU. So, nothing has changed. Her game has grown tremendously."
All that being said, Berger still doesn't feel like she has accomplished anything yet, and she doesn't think the team has accomplished anything yet.
The two-time All-First Team Big Ten competitor, who just helped lead Indiana to its first-ever Elite Eight in 2021, doesn't think she has accomplished anything?
That's the way Berger is driven. That's the way Moren has her team wired.
There's never been more hype and outside expectation for Indiana's women's basketball program, but to them, everything they did last season doesn't matter this year.
They don't expect to simply come out and dominate, and they certainly don't feel like the favorites.
"Personally, we feel like we haven't accomplished anything." Berger said. "Our goal is to win the Big Ten, make a Final Four and win a National Championship."
This will mark Berger's senior season, and she got a taste of what it was like to get so close to a Final Four with her teammates last year in San Antonio.
Indiana will be in the news cycle a lot this season. The Hoosiers are ranked amongst the top teams in the country, coming in at No. 7 in ESPNW’s Way Too Early Top 25 and No. 8 in the NCAA.com preseason poll.
Indiana will also be on national television 13 times this season.
But with the mentality Berger and her team have this offseason — that they aren't owed anything just because rankings — the Hoosiers don't feel any pressure.
They intend to mimic how Berger handles her business: Just show up and work to get better, and then maybe, just maybe, the Hoosiers will feel like they accomplished something at the end of the season.
"We’re not looking at it as pressure," Berger said. "We still feel like we’re that blue collar team that hasn’t done anything. We’re showing up every single day, trying to get one percent better every day and accomplish the goals we’re setting out to do."
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