August 23, 2022
USA Basketball invites 28 athletes to pre-World Cup camp
Las Vegas event will determine who goes to Sydney
A group of 28 athletes will compete in a USA Basketball training camp next month in Las Vegas in preparation for the FIBA World Cup. However, only 12 players will head Down Under to the event in Sydney from Sept. 22 to Oct. 1. The list of players who accepted an invitation reflects the fresh faces at the top of the sport.
“Everybody has the same opportunity,” said Jennifer Rizzotti, who is the chair of the player selection committee. “They are in the national team pool for a reason.”
The training camp will run from Sept. 6-12 at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion. The decisive games of the WNBA semifinals and the beginning of the Finals are scheduled over the same time span.
“That will be tricky, knowing they will still be in the WNBA semifinals or Finals,” said Rizzotti, who is also the president of the Connecticut Sun. “We have a deadline to give as many as we can the opportunity and evaluate them. It depends on the person and the position. We still get to see and evaluate them at the highest level (if they are playing in the playoffs and not physically in camp). We’re all very fortunate and it’s a hard decision.”
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That means seven reigning Olympic gold medalists will not be on the roster and the beginning of a new era in the program. This will be the first World Cup this century without Sue Bird, who will retire once the Seattle Storm’s season ends. Sylvia Fowles recently retired, as well. In addition, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles and Skylar Diggins-Smith will not be on the team, as well as Napheesa Collier, who gave birth earlier this season and Brittney Griner, who remains detained in Russia.
So who will be the candidates to make the team this time around?
“We will have new faces and a changing of the guard,” Rizzotti added. “We’ve been really strong the past two Olympics at the forward position. It allows us to spread the floor. We have a fun group of guards. Many have been there before, but they didn’t have a big role. They are replacing Sue Bird, Lindsay Whalen, Diana Taurasi, and Seimone Augustus. We have so many great players to be at that one, two or three position to carry the torch.”
Elena Delle Donne returns to the national team mix after missing the Olympics with a back injury. She was on the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the previous World Cup in Tenerife in 2018. Plum, Loyd, Stewart and Wilson are the other holdovers from that team that ran the table in Spain four years ago.
Angel McCoughtry, at 35 and without a WNBA team, is the oldest player on the training camp roster. So she could distribute the veteran leadership missing from the likes of Bird and Taurasi. McCoughtry, who played in two games with the Lynx this season before having her contract bought out, won World Cups in 2010 and 2014 and Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016. The 32-year-old Delle Donne is the second oldest.
Eleven of the 12 who participated in February’s qualifying tournament are in the lineup. Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell, who suffered a foot tear in July, is the lone exception.
Aliyah Boston, from the national champion South Carolina Gamecocks, is the only collegiate player in the field.
“We’ve always tried to look forward,” Rizzotti said. “We’re talking about the next generation. She’s played in a lot of youth tournaments for us, and she plays a position (center) where she is going to replace the greats. It’s great to see some young talent in that mix.”
Also headed to Las Vegas are: Shakira Austin, Kahleah Copper, Diamond DeShields, Dearica Hamby, Myisha Hines-Allen, Natasha Howard, Rhyne Howard, Sabrina Ionescu, Brionna Jones, Betnijah Laney, Kayla McBride, Arike Ogunbowale, Aerial Powers, NaLyssa Smith, Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams.
Nearly all of them have USA Basketball experience at some form of level. Head coach Cheryl Reeve will conduct the training camp, along with assistants Mike Thibault, Joni Taylor and Kara Lawson. Katie Smith and Curt Miller are the court coaches.
Written by Scott Mammoser
Scott Mammoser started out covering the Niagara University women's basketball team in 2002. He went on to cover FIBA World Cups in Turkey and Spain, Under-19 World Cups in Thailand and Spain, the Asia Cup in China, as well as major international events for World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 80 countries.