July 21, 2021 

Your team-by-team Olympic women’s basketball preview is here!

Torrens, Vasic, Nurse and Meesseman among top foreign players to watch

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The one-year delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will finally unfold this weekend, and the women’s basketball tournament will proceed on July 26. Here is a look at the 12 teams and their top storylines to watch.

Group A

Canada

Coach: Lisa Thomaidis

Seventh Olympic appearance, best result was fourth in 1984. Kia Nurse and Natalie Achonwa averaged 16 and 13 points in the Olympic Qualifier. Nurse led Canada in scoring at Rio 2016 as a 20 year old, then averaged more than 18 points per game at the 2018 World Cup, which were the third-highest at the event. Bridget Carleton of the Minnesota Lynx and Aaliyah Edwards of UConn are on the roster, and Miranda Ayim will carry the Canadian flag in the Opening Ceremony.

Republic of Korea

Coach: Chun Joo-weon

Seventh appearance, best result was silver in 1984. Making its first trip since 2008. Las Vegas Aces center Park Ji-su makes her Olympic debut after joining the senior national team as a 15-year-old at the 2014 World Cup. Guard Park Ji-hyun led the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in scoring at more than 16 points per game.  

Serbia

Coach: Marina Maljkovic

Second appearance as an independent nation, won silver in 1988 as part of Yugoslavia. The defending bronze medalists from Rio, Serbia is fresh off winning EuroBasket in June. Sonja Vasic was named MVP, after scoring 15.5 points and grabbing seven rebounds per game, and she will carry the Serbian flag in the Opening Ceremony. Yvonne Anderson was a double-figure scorer at EuroBasket, as well, with 14 per game.

Spain

Coach: Lucas Mondelo

Fifth appearance, best result was silver in 2016. Spain is coming off a disappointing seventh-place finish at EuroBasket, falling to Serbia in the quarterfinals, and they will need to win the gold medal to have a chance at qualifying for next year’s World Cup. Alba Torrens missed EuroBasket due to virus protocol, but the former FIBA Europe Player of the Year returned to score 19 points in an exhibition win over France on July 8. Guard Laia Palau, age 41, is back for her fourth Olympics, as well – a career that stretches back to Athens 2004. Astou Ndour led the team with 15 points per game at EuroBasket.

Group B

France

Coach: Valerie Garnier

Fourth appearance, best result was silver in 2012. France won the silver medal at EuroBasket last month behind double-figure scoring from Endene Miyem, Marine Johannes and Sandrine Gruda. The roster includes former UConn forward Gabby Williams and former Maryland forward Diandra Tchatchouang.

Japan

Coach: Tom Hovasse

Fifth appearance, best result was fifth in 1976. The Olympic hosts beat Belgium by eight in exhibition on July 15, then dominated Puerto Rico, 94-59, with balanced scoring on July 17. Japan also defeated Portugal three times in a June exhibition series. Former Seattle Storm forward and FIBA Asia Championship MVP Ramu Tokashiki is out after ACL surgery, but Saki Hayashi has picked up the load. She scored 15 points per game during last year’s qualifying tournament.

Nigeria

Coach: Otis Hughley Jr.

Second appearance, 11th in 2004. Having Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams would have changed the entire dynamic of the tournament, but FIBA overruled their final-hour pleas to join the roster, citing they had too much experience with USA Basketball. The U.S. defeated Nigeria, 93-62, in exhibition on Sunday, as Nigeria is still finalizing its roster. Erica Ogwumike (Rice) did play in the exhibition. Ezinne Kalu led the Nigerians with 16 points per game in last year’s qualifying tournament.

United States

Coach: Dawn Staley

Eleventh appearance, eight-time gold medalists and six-time reigning champions. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi are seeking fifth gold medals, Sylvia Fowles her fourth, and Tina Charles her third. World Cup MVP Breanna Stewart, WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson and 6’8 center Brittney Griner add to the superstar roster. Riding a 49-game Olympic winning streak, dating back to 1992 and have not lost in a major international competition since the 2006 World Cup.

Group C

Australia

Coach: Sandy Brondello

Ninth appearance, best result was silver medals in 2000, 2004 and 2008. The withdrawal of Liz Cambage  (the leading scorer at both the Rio Olympics and 2018 World Cup) is a huge loss for the Opals, but they still managed to defeat the U.S. in exhibition last week. Nearly all have played in the WNBA at some point in their careers, with Sami Whitcomb and Stephanie Talbot currently leading the league in three pointers made and three-point percentage.

Belgium

Coach: Philip Mestdagh

First Olympic appearance. Coming off a bronze medal at EuroBasket and fourth-place result at the 2018 World Cup. Former WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman was second at EuroBasket with 20.7 points per game and also grabbed 8.5 rebounds. Antonia Delaere, Kim Mestdagh and Kyara Linskens were double-figure scorers at EuroBasket, as well. Julie Allemand will conduct the point, and Ann Wauters is on the roster at age 40.

China

Coach: Xu Lumin

Ninth appearance, best result was silver in 1992. Li Meng led China with 16 points per game at the qualifying tournament. Shao Ting returns at small forward, and there will be no shortage of height with 6’9 Han Xu, 6’7 Li Yueru and 6’6 Sun Mengran up front, as China looks to avenge a disappointing 1-4 finish from 2016.

Puerto Rico

Coach: Gerardo Batista

First Olympic appearance; Won the silver medal at last month’s AmeriCup, playing at home. Jennifer O’Neill and Jazmon Gwathmey were the top two scorers in the event at 16.8 and 15.8 points per game. The alumna of Kentucky and James Madison had similar numbers at last year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, the ISU and World Athletics. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 60 countries.

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