Highlighted by a trio of two-time Olympic gold medalists and featuring a total of nine players who have won Olympic gold, 21 USA Women’s National Team members were named Monday as finalists for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team. The player selections were made by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee.
Three of the players selected were Olympic gold medalists from the University of Tennessee in Tamika Catchings (1997-01), Kara Lawson (1999-03) and Candace Parker (2004-08). Catchings was a USA gold medalist in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), while Lawson and Parker joined Catchings on the Beijing team.
“Obviously, I am excited for Tamika, Kara and Candace,” said University of Tennessee Lady Vol head basketball coach Pat Summitt. “As Olympic gold medalists already, they each know firsthand the amount of work they have ahead of them to secure a spot on the team again. The Lady Vol basketball family is extremely proud of them.”
Over the years, 14 Lady Vol basketball players have made 17 appearances in the summer Olympic Games since 1976.
“Now that we’re down to 21 finalists, you look around and you see a group of players that have tremendous experience,” said Geno Auriemma, 2009-12 USA National Team and University of Connecticut head coach. “(We have) players that have won (Olympic) gold medals, won World Championships, there are WNBA champions on the list, players that have won in Europe in international competition. You’ve got a group of players that have experienced everything there is to experience and as a coach, as someone who’s been around these players, I couldn’t be happier with this group. They represent the best of what the United States has to offer.”
The 21 finalists for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team include: Jayne Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars), Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx), Swin Cash (Chicago Sky), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), Brittney Griner (Baylor University), Lindsey Harding (Atlanta Dream), Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun), Kara Lawson (Connecticut Sun), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Renee Montgomery (Connecticut Sun), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks), Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) and Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars).
“When you’re trying to pick a team,” said Auriemma. “It’s important that you don’t just say, ‘ok, well, we’re just going to get the best player and that’s all there is to it.’ You’re trying to put together the Olympic team. So, you’re trying to find players that fit together very well, that are very compatible, they complement each other’s strengths, hide each other’s weaknesses. So, we’re going to have to decide: What kind of team do we want? What are the dynamics that we’re trying to achieve? In the end, are we prepared for anything the other countries are going to throw at us and do we have something for every occasion? As we’re picking the team, those things are going to be really crucial.”
Headlining the finalists roster are 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medalists Bird, Catchings and Taurasi. They were joined on the 2004 Olympic gold medal stand by Cash and on the top of the podium in 2008 by Augustus, Fowles, Lawson, Parker and Pondexter.
All 12 members of the 2010 USA World Championship Team, which earned the USA’s London Olympic berth by virtue of claiming the ’10 FIBA World Championship, are still in the running for a spot on the 2012 team. Those athletes include: Appel, Bird, Cash, Catchings, Charles, Dupree, Fowles, Jones, McCoughtry, Moore, Taurasi and Whalen.
Bird and Catchings are three-time USA World Championship Team members, having also won gold in 2002 and bronze in 2006; while Augustus, Parker and Taurasi competed on the 2006 USA World Championship Team that returned with the bronze medal.
Twenty of the 21 athletes compete professionally in the WNBA and most continue to hone their games during the winter in China or Europe. The lone collegian is Griner, who has the chance to be the first collegiate athlete selected to a U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team since 1988 (Vicky Bullett, Maryland; Bridgette Gordon, Tennessee).
Auriemma will be assisted in the USA’s quest for a gold medal by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, 1988 Olympic gold medalist and Washington Mystics assistant coach Jennifer Gillom and Atlanta Dream head coach Marynell Meadors.