USA Basketball has announced its 29 player women’s pool for the 2018 World Cup to be held next September 22-30 in Tenerife, Canary Islands., Spain. C Talk about an embarrassment of riches.
The 29 members include Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx); Sue Bird (Seattle Storm); Tina Charles (New York Liberty); Layshia Clarendon (Atlanta Dream); Naphesa Collier (Connecticut); Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics); Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings); Stephanie Dolson (Chicago Sky); Asia Durr (Louisville); Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx); Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury); Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream); Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks); Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm); Kayla McBride (Las Vegas Aces); Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream); Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State); Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx); Chiney Ogwumike (Connecticut Sun); Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks); Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces); Katie Lou Samuelson (Connecticut); Odyssey Sims (Los Angeles Sparks); Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm); Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury); Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun); Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx); Courtney Williams (Connecticut Sun); and A’ja Wilson (South Carolina).
Unlike the established NBA All Stars, who have a history of skipping major World Cup events in non-Olympic years, the women seem excited to play in international competition. Augustus, Bird, Charles, Delle Donne, Fowles, Griner, McCoughtry, Moore, Stewart, Taurasi and Whalen all played for the 2016 Olympic team that raced to gold in Rio and drew comparisons to the 1996 team, which had been considered the gold standard for USA women’s teams.
It should be interesting to see what new faces crack the roster. Forward Tamika Catchings, a 37-year old member of the 2016 Olympic team, has retired, opening one sport. And six members of the 2016 team—Bird, Taurasi, Whelan, Augustus, Fowles and McCoughtry are in their 30s. Having said that, the 35-year old Taurasi is still the best player in the world and 37-year old Bird is the smartest point guard playing international basketball.
Team USA has enough good players to win again in 2020 if the roster remains the same. But the younger players in the world are getting better and once this group leaves, winning gold will be much harder to win gold unless the Americans can solidify its guard line come up with a point guard who can duplicate Bird’s skills and IQ. The weeding out process has to start now.
Available members of the USA pool will participate in a minicamp Feb. 9-11, 2018, at the University of South Carolina. The USA will train at 10 a.m. daily Feb. 9-11 at the Carolina Coliseum, and the final roster of mini-camp participants will be announced at a later date. Collegiate members of the 2017-20 USA squad, Collier, Durr, Kelsey Mitchell, Samuelson and Wilson, as well as those competing professionally in Asia, which currently includes Fowles, Loyd and Stewart, will be unavailable to participate in the camp.
This will mark the second camp under the direction of Dawn Staley, 2017-20 USA Basketball Women’s National Team and South Carolina head coach.
“I’m incredibly pleased with the pool of players that make up the 29 and the different experiences that they bring to the team,” Staley said. ‘I’m looking forward to putting my stamp on this training camp, because it’s new, it’s different. Yet, you can give the 29 members of the pool anything to run, and they’re going to make you look good. We just have to get together to form some chemistry. Many of us have been together and worked together, just not in this capacity. So, anytime we can get the USA National Team together and work for a few days, it’s only going to benefit us in the long run.
“This is a very talented group, from four-time Olympians Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, to the younger players who are hoping to compete in their first USA National Team competition,” said Carol Callan, USA Basketball Women’s National Team director and chair of the USA Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee. “As we looked toward the future, the committee first had to look at the past. We acknowledged that what has made the USA National Team program such a resounding success over the past two decades was the way our teams have seamlessly blended youth with veteran leadership. And because of that, we wanted to make sure we continued with that recipe in building a team. We can’t say enough about the veterans. We win simply because our best players want to play over and over again.”
As was the case over the past three quadrenniums, the 2017-20 USA National Team roster will be fluid. It is expected that the official, 12-member 2018 USA World Cup and 2020 U.S. Olympic teams, should the USA qualify to compete in Tokyo, will be comprised of players from the 2017-20 USA National Team.
All 29 athletes possess prior USA Basketball international experience. Combined, the athletes own 100 gold medals, two silver medals and four bronze medals in official junior and senior level five-on-five competitions, as well as seven gold medals in international 3×3 events. The list of USA National Team members is underscored by a total of 25 Olympic and 19 FIBA World Cup gold medals.