Prospect working toward great things
During the USA Basketball U18 trials in May, Beatrice Mompremier kept her phone handy so she could call her coaches back home in Miami to tell them how poorly she was playing.
"I don't think," the 6-foot-4 senior center told them, "I'm as good as everybody keeps telling me."
Mompremier's fears nearly turned to tears when the names of the 12 girls who made the team were called out in alphabetical order. When they got to the M's, it went from Teaira McCowan to Mariya Moore.
And then, slightly out of order but worth the wait, came "Mompremier."
"I put my hand on my chest," said Mompremier, the undeclared No. 45 prospect in the 2015 class. "I was so surprised."
Sam Baumgarten, who is Mompremier's coach at Miami High, said he heard from the U.S. coaches that Mompremier was overcome with emotion.
"Bea is not a hugger," he said. "But she was on that day."
Mompremier beat out 17 other elite athletes on cut-down day and made a team that includes a trio of gold medalists: Recee' Caldwell, Brianna Turner and A'ja Wilson. The team, which is coached by Dawn Staley, will compete at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships, set for Aug. 6-10 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Team USA will compete against Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico and Puerto Rico, and the top four teams will qualify for next year's U19 FIBA World Championships in Russia.
The next great Miami center?
Mompremier, who is of Haitian descent and speaks Creole in addition to English, reminds some of another center who grew up in the area, 6-6 Sylvia Fowles, who led Gulliver Prep to a state title in 2003-04 as a senior and Miami Edison to two state titles in 2002-03 and 2001-02. Mompremier led Miami High to a state title last year as a junior. Fowles is currently a WNBA All-Star for the Chicago Sky.
In December of her sophomore season, Mompremier gave a glimpse of her potential, traveling to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and setting a tournament single-game record with 13 blocked shots.
But it hasn't been easy to get to this point. Mompremier has battled adversity -- much of it of her own making.
Baumgarten has suspended her a handful of times over the past three years for what he deemed a lack of full effort in practice.
Mompremier admitted that her practice habits are an area where she needs to improve.
In her defense, it's difficult to maintain full intensity during Miami High's practices because the next tallest player is at least eight inches shorter than she is.
"That's one thing I'm working on -- practicing harder," she said. "At USA Basketball, there are a lot of girls my size, and they give me much more competition."
One such player is Jessica Shepard, a 6-4 Nebraska recruit from Fremont, Nebraska.
Baumgarten said Mompremier, while playing AAU ball for the Miami Sun/Team Fowles, handled every elite "big" she faced this summer -- with the possible exception of Shepard.
"Jessica is the only one who gave Beatrice every ounce of energy because she can put the ball on the floor and shoot 3s," Baumgarten said. "It was like Bea was playing a guard, and I don't think she was ready for that.
"But, in the post, especially shooting with either hand, I think Beatrice is the best in the country -- and not because she is my kid. It's just that she impressed every college coach who saw her. She handled everyone in the post and dominated a couple."
Said Mompremier: "I can see now why I need to practice hard every time."
The next step in maturity
Recognizing a weakness is the first step toward fixing it, and Mompremier appears to be well on her way to addressing another issue: anger management.
Mompremier was ejected last year during Miami High's only loss of the season. Referees ruled that Mompremier had swung an elbow during the first quarter of a 71-70 overtime loss to Edison (Alexandria, Virginia) in the Junior Orange Bowl Classic in Miami.
Moments earlier, Mompremier had been hit with a technical foul after she and an Edison player had engaged in trash-talking.
"She said she was going to beat my [butt]," Mompremier said when asked what started the incident.
On the second technical, Baumgarten said Mompremier had grabbed a rebound and was trying to clear space with her elbows. There was no malicious intent, he said, but because of the previous technical, she was thrown out of the game.
"I get frustrated and upset really quickly," Mompremier said. "I have to learn to control my anger. I'm getting better at it, but I don't think I'm there yet."
Amanda Mendoza, Miami's starting point guard last year, said Mompremier's size and skill make her a target.
"They elbow her, pinch her, put their nails in her," Mendoza said. "They do a lot of dirty things to her. She gets scratched up a lot.
"Before, she would get frustrated easily. [In the game against Edison], she didn't even shake hands. She just went straight to the back and started crying because she felt she had cost us the game.
"But, after that game, she got a lot more composure, and that's a big reason why we won state. She wasn't going to let anyone mess with our success."
Not rushing to a decision
College coaches across the country crave that determination in a body as gifted as Mompremier's.
But Mompremier is in no rush. She plans to take all five of her recruiting visits after the FIBA Americas Championships.
She wasn't going to let anyone mess with our success.Amanda Mendoza, on Beatrice Mompremier
Mompremier says she is considering offers from Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State and South Carolina.
She said she wants to decide on a school by the midway point of her senior season, if not sooner, but she still has a lot to figure out, including settling on a major and deciding if she wants to leave Florida.
"I'm thinking about leaving, and I'm thinking about staying," she said. "I'm in between. But I wouldn't have a problem leaving."
Her brother, 6-10 Wadley Mompremier, already has left the state. He played his freshman year last season at Ohio University, a mid-major program.
His sister figures to go to a major-conference program after a junior season in which she averaged 14.5 points, 13 rebounds and 3.5 blocks and was named Florida's Gatorade Player of the Year. She led Miami High (31-1) to the Class 8A state title and was the MVP of the Final Four.
"If she works hard," Mendoza said, "Beatrice can be the best center in the country."