Bloomington, Ind. Coming off a 2003-04 season in which she was the highest-scoring sophomore in the Big Ten, Indiana guard and Bloomington native Cyndi Valentin has earned a spot on the Puerto Rican National Team that will compete this summer in qualifying rounds for the 2006 FIBA World Championships held in Brazil.
Valentin was born in New Jersey and raised in Bloomington, but she is eligible to compete for the team because her father Juan was born in Isabela, Puerto Rico.
I am real excited about this opportunity. Valentin said. I am looking forward to playing international basketball. This is the biggest honor I have ever received and is a great chance to represent my heritage. I have family down there and they are real excited about the chance to see me play as well.
She will leave for training camp on May 20 and will compete in the first round of qualifying in Santiago, Cuba, from June 10-20. In Cuba, Puerto Rico will take on other teams from the Caribbean, with only three teams advancing to the second round played from July 20-25 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Should the team advance through the second round, it will compete at the FIBA Americas World Championship Qualifying Tournament in 2005. The site of that tournament has not yet been determined.
Valentin is only the second Hoosier womens basketball student-athlete to earn a selection to a national team, as Linda Cunningham competed for the Canadian National Team in 1983 and 1984. Coach Kathi Bennett served as an assistant coach for the United States at the 2003 Pan American Games played in the Dominican Republic and helped lead the team to a silver medal.
What an honor to represent Puerto Rico with a chance to play in the World Championships, Bennett said. Cyndi has worked very hard on her game on both ends of the court and deserves a great opportunity like this. We are very proud of her and what she has earned.
After following Valentins progress through the internet, the Puerto Rican Basketball Federation got in contact with Valentin to ask for game tapes. After viewing the tapes from the 2003-04 season and scouting her further, the Federation offered Valentin a spot on the roster.
Valentin was an honorable mention All-Big Ten honoree in 2003-04 after averaging 15.5 points per game and setting a new Big Ten single-season record by draining 97.7 percent of her free throw attempts (42-for-43) in conference games. In addition, she became Indianas all-time record holder (men or women) for most free throws made consecutively by finishing the season knocking down 42 in a row. She will take that streak into next season.
Her 15.5 points per game average in 2003-04 ranks sixth all-time for a sophomore at Indiana, putting her in a class with Karna Abram (22.9 ppg as a sophomore in 1985), Denise Jackson (17.0 ppg as a sophomore in 1982), Cindy Bumgarner (16.7 ppg as a sophomore in 1985 ), Jill Chapman (16.1 ppg as a sophomore in 2000) and Rachelle Bostic (16.0 ppg as a sophomore in 1982).
Valentin scored 20 or more points in a game on eight different occasions in 2003-04, highlighted by a career-high 24-point outburst in a 58-55 overtime win over Northwestern on January 18. Valentin scored 22 of her 24 points after halftime in that contest, including all seven of Indianas points in the deciding overtime period.
A Big Ten All-Freshman selection in 2002-03, Valentin became only the third Hoosier to ever earn the recognition after she averaged 10.4 points per game.