During training camp, US National Team head coach Geno Auriemma, gives a motivational huddle talk to Team USA.
PHOTO GALLERY: USA Training Camp
America's fast track to an Olympic gold medal will be tested tonight as Team USA takes on Brazil in an exhibition game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The question for the United States is whether the lack of playing time together will be a major impediment or a minor bump in the road, as the past 48 hours of training camp is the first time the complete and somewhat healthy team has worked out together.
While the USA is the odds-on favorite to win the gold, they are way behind other national teams that have been working out and preparing for the better part of a year. Most have played 20-30 exhibition games, while the USA will play its third tonight, the first with a complete roster.
Australia, tired of finishing second to the U.S. in the last three Olympics, has put extra emphasis on the team practicing together for an extended time and Lauren Jackson (Seattle Storm) made the decision to skip the first half of the WNBA season to stay home and practice with the team. How seriously are the Aussies taking their training? 2008 Olympian Erin Phillips, one of the strongest guards for Australia, was cut from the roster mainly because she chose to play for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever this season instead of staying Down Under.
Likewise, 6-5 Brazilian Erika de Souza, a 2010 WNBA All-Star for the Atlanta Dream, didn’t report to the WNBA, opting to stay home in hopes of helping her country to the medal rounds. Other familiar faces on the Brazilian team are Izzy Castro Marques, who was the second-leading scorer for the Dream last season, and young 19-year-old star Damiris Dantas, who was drafted by the Minnesota Lynx but has yet to report to the team.
Brazil presents some real challenges for the United States, as the South Americans are fast, physical, and have real scoring threats from the outside. Still, yesterday after practice, U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma said he’s not that concerned with the outcome of the game.
“I'm not going to put a lot of stock in if we beat Brazil that we are going to win the gold medal, or if we don't play well we are going to lose the gold medal. I think tomorrow is just an opportunity to play our very first game as the U.S. Olympic Team, and it's the starting point. We will go from there."
“Every team is a threat for Team USA; we don’t’ take anybody for granted,” said Seimone Augustus who is aware of the pressure on the US to win. “The international players are getting better at a younger age and we expect to see a lot of great young talent over there, and hungry. They want to come out and beat the U.S.
“I can remember in 2006 when we lost in the world championships to Russia -- that’s something they still talk about today. It could make their basketball careers to beat Team USA so we are definitely going to be focused.”
The Verizon Center will be the center of activity in the nation's capital as both the men and the women’s national teams are scheduled to play Brazil. The president and vice president are expected to take in the game .
But women's basketball fans will be focused on how cohesive the Americans are, and how much further they need to go if they are to win the gold medals in London.
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