MILTON — Many young athletes dream of competing in international games, but seldom get to realize that dream.
Pace High School freshman Paiten Rivera is getting that chance. Rivera has been chosen by STUDENTathleteWorld to represent the United States in the United World Games, an international sporting competition to be held in Klagenfurt, Austria, from June 19-23.
According to a press release from SAW, student-athletes are selected from a national pool and chosen for the team based on a combination of their athletic ability, as well as their academics, leadership ability, and character. Rivera attended a high school basketball evaluation camp, "All American Showcase," hosted in Louisiana in August last year where college basketball coaches evaluated her performance.
A few weeks later she said was contacted by SaWUSA saying they were interested in possibly recruiting her for the women's basketball United World Games. Rivera said she was excited to learn that she was on the only athlete on the women's team from Florida.
"I am very proud to be able to represent Florida and the USA," she said.
Rivera said initially she wasn't really interested in basketball until her mother encouraged her to try it out.
"My mom signed me up for rec ball in the second grade and wanted me to try it for one season," she said. "I found out that I really liked playing basketball and have been playing ever since then."
Rivera said for anyone who is interested in playing basketball or who wants to improve their skills has to always keep a positive attitude. In addition, she said you should always be willing to listen to your coaches and be willing to work hard and be determined. Being willing to make tough decisions like missing social stuff with friends on the weekends because of practices and tournaments, she said is something that comes with the territory. She said making those tough decisions helped her reach her dream to play overseas.
"I don't regret missing those things, because it helped me become a better player," she said.
Pace High School Basketball Coach Greg Gill said he had no doubt Rivera would be an asset to the games and said he was excited for her future.
"I find Paiten to be attentive, extremely well-behaved, hard-working and focused on becoming a better basketball player," Gill said.
Rivera leaves for the games on June 17.