June 16, 2024 

Alyssa Thomas is ready for her first Olympic team

Connecticut Sun star Alyssa Thomas has never played on an Olympic team, but is primed to be a major contributor next month

When the 2024 US Women’s Olympics team roster was announced earlier this week, the basketball community eagerly debated who was snubbed, who undeservedly made it, and whether the selection committee got the final decisions right. 

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It came as no surprise that Connecticut Sun star Alyssa Thomas was selected. Thomas, last year’s WNBA MVP runner-up, has put together another dominant campaign so far this season. She’s once again averaging a near triple-double —12.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 8.1 assists — all while anchoring the league’s best defense en route to the league’s best record. 

What may come as a surprise, however, is that the 32-year old, four-time league All Star has never been on an Olympic team before. 

“This has been a few years in the making,” Thomas told The Next. That’s in part because for a long time, Thomas didn’t feel like her playing style matched Team USA’s. 

“I don’t think USA really – in the past – was fit for the style of play that I had, just watching the type of players that had played,” Thomas said. “And I also didn’t think it was my turn yet. There’s so many players that don’t make the team who are better ahead of you in that position. So, I’m 32 and I’m getting my first chance at it. A lot of it is just being patient and waiting for your opportunity.”

A change in leadership meant Thomas had renewed interest in Olympic basketball

In 2021, the national team got a new head coach. Cheryl Reeve, a former WNBA player and coach with her own illustrious career, took over at the helm. Reeve, who currently also serves as the head coach and general manager of the Minnesota Lynx, reached out to Thomas about trying out for the FIBA team ahead of the World Cup in 2022, emphasizing that defense would be core to what the team was doing. 

“She kind of described what the emphasis was going to be defensively, and she thought I would be a great piece to add,” Thomas said. “And I still had my reservations, but she kept it real with me and said, ‘if it wasn’t gonna work out, then I would be honest with you early on.’ And I respected that, and just went in and tried it, and had a lot of fun at Worlds. It’s been a few year process for me.”

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Thomas ultimately served as a critical member of the 2022 FIBA World Cup team that won gold. She was named the Best Defensive Player of the tournament, and led the team in rebounds (7) and assists (4.3). The US dominated the international competition, beating Canada by 40 in the semi-finals and overtaking China by 22 in the Finals. The tournament began a mere days after the Sun fell to the Aces in the league Finals, and Thomas joined forces with several of the players who had just defeated her. 

“It was a whirlwind,” Thomas said. “I mean, I went from losing in the Finals and the next morning on a plane to Australia and into playing three games in four days. It was a tough decision to even go to that after losing and not being able to turn the page on that. But I ended up having a lot of fun being that it was one of my first experiences back playing. It ended up being the moment that I needed after losing the Finals, and it was a great overall experience.”

Alyssa Thomas’s ability to be a connector makes her the perfect fit

For Connecticut Sun head coach Stephanie White, Thomas’s inclusion on the roster makes perfect sense. 

“She does all the little things,” White told The Next. “The obvious things are what show up in the stat sheet. But her ability, her basketball IQ is off the charts.”

Thomas’s near triple-double average speaks for itself, but it’s a whole slew of other things that White said she does

“Her ability to be a ball mover on offense, her ability defensively, to play key one-on-one matchups, to be in the right place at the right time, and help side. To rebound on both ends of the floor, to push tempo, use her versatility to play multiple positions, initiating offense, playing off the ball,” White said, rattling off a seemingly never-ending list of intangibles Thomas excels at, with a smile. 

“She’s a really good screener as well. She’s just one of those plug-and-play type of players who can play with multiple types of lineups. Those types of players are incredibly valuable.” 

That versatility will prove valuable considering the plethora of talent on the roster; Napheesa Collier, Kahleah Copper, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Sabrina Ionescu, Jewell Lloyd, Kelsey Plum, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, A’ja Wilson, and Jackie Young round up the star-studded cast. 

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Games will be held in Paris between July 28 and August 11, during a break in the WNBA season. There’s neither a training camp nor ramp-up period. Players leave their professional teams in pursuit of gold and quickly return to being competitors when the ultimate prize is accomplished.

“Other teams are probably preparing now — they have months to prepare,” Thomas said. “Fortunately enough, we’ve all played against each other for so long, so we know each other’s games. But it’s an adjustment, and I think everyone sacrifices in those moments. We’re all going out there for a greater goal. We all try to contribute in any way that we can.” 

For Thomas, the chance to compete for an Olympic medal is still surreal. 

“It’s something that I’ve watched growing up – it’s a big thing in my family that we watched,” Thomas said.  “I’m getting an opportunity to go out there and be around the top athletes in the world. I’m gonna be able to share that with my family – they get the opportunity to be there instead of watching on TV. So, I’m just excited to be able to share this moment with many people. And, I mean to be an Olympian, and a gold medal – it’s kind of unheard of. So, I’m just excited.”

California here you come ☀️

Can’t decide what to do this sunny season? How about an all-expenses paid weekend trip for two to LA to watch both the LA Sparks and Angel City FC next month? Problem solved.

Complete with sweet swag from our friends at Birdies, take in some WNBA action in premium seats when the LA Sparks host the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces on July 5th. 

  • Then catch Angel City vs. the reigning NWSL champs, Gotham FC, on July 6th in style before the Olympic break. In addition to two premium tickets which include warm up field passes, the winners will also walk away with jerseys.

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Written by Noa Dalzell

Noa Dalzell covers the Boston Celtics for SB Nation's CelticsBlog and the Connecticut Sun for The Next. Her work has also appeared in FanSided and Swish Appeal, as well as CLNS Media. When she's not writing about basketball, she's playing basketball or lobbying for a more sustainable food system.

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