April 3, 2021
Which post players will the U.S. send to Tokyo?
Fowles, Charles and Wilson all took part in a USA Basketball minicamp this week
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When the U.S. takes the court this summer in Tokyo, head coach Dawn Staley will have plenty of depth in the frontcourt positions. First, the USA Basketball staff will need to decide which of the wealth of talent will travel to Japan.
Veteran players such as Sylvia Fowles and Tina Charles participated in the Team USA minicamp in San Antonio this week, alongside potential Olympic rookies such as A’ja Wilson, Nneka Ogwumike and Stefanie Dolson, and none of the roster spots are guaranteed.
“I’m excited about the new teammates I have because I feel that it makes my job at lot easier,” said Fowles, who has three Olympic gold medals already. “To have a lot of guards around you who can actually shoot makes my job easier, but it also gives me the option to either dominate or pass. We have that ‘pick your poison’ option this year.”
Fowles made her Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008 as a 22-year-old. The 6’6 Fowles came off the bench behind Lisa Leslie to lead the U.S. team with 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Four years later in London, Charles started six of the eight games at center, then moved to power forward with Brittney Griner at center for each of the eight games at Rio in 2016. Griner and Charles also teamed up to start at those positions in the past two World Cups, in which Fowles did not compete.
“The depth is always what it is on the national team,” Charles said. “I don’t think it’s ever fallen off in the time that I have been here. We’re going up against the best of the best. The front line has always been there, the same thing as the backcourt. I think it’s overall fun to compete against the best of the best to see where you are. It’s also humbling at the same time, knowing someone across from you knows your game, and at the end of the day, we’re all very competitive. There is a goal to be selected on the team, so it’s great and fun.”
“I’m just looking forward to being on the elite stage,” Charles added. “I don’t take my position, either in the WNBA or with USA Basketball, for granted. I know anyone would love to be where I am, and just being here, I am going to take advantage of the time. I have more years behind me than ahead of me in terms of my basketball career, so I am taking advantage of every game I can play.”
At age 24, the 6’5 Wilson already has a stellar resume that includes a national championship at South Carolina and a gold medal at the 2018 World Cup in Spain. She is eager to put on the Team USA jersey again – this time for the Tokyo Olympics.
“This is something I dreamed of,” said Wilson, who is the reigning WNBA MVP. “I am also so lucky to compete in the WNBA against these women every other night. I am just excited to be in the pool with others who compete at this level because it’s not easy, especially at my position. Coming up on my fourth year, I am still learning, and I am grateful to have these vets who not only compete at a high level and work hard all of the time, but take me under their wings and show me different things and make sure I am OK. That is what it’s all about. To be the best, you have to compete against the best.”
Griner was not at the minicamp and neither were Elena Delle Donne or Breanna Stewart. They, along with several other elite players, are still in the pool for roster spots for the Olympics, which will be decided in the coming months.
Written by Scott Mammoser
Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.