The 33-player roster for the initial senior women's national training camp, announced Thursday by USA Basketball, includes a blend of gold-medal decorated veterans and young newcomers, as the United States begins its preparations to defend its World Championship and Olympic titles in women's basketball. Those preparations will kick off with a national team mini-camp from Oct. 4-6 at the Cox Pavilion practice gym at the University of Las Vegas Nev., where the Selection Committee will begin the process of identifying the national team pool from which the 12-member rosters for the 2014 Women's World Championships and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero will be selected.
The mini-camp roster is a big one, but that's in part because the teams playing in the WNBA Finals, which will overlap the mini-camp precluding those players from participating, have yet to be determined. Seven of the returning players and four of the newcomers on the mini-camp roster are currently taking part in the WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
Highlighting the returning veterans are three-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury); two-time Olympic gold medalists Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks); 2012 Olympic gold medalists Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx); and Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty), a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team. Further, Jayne Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars) and Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), both of whom aided the USA to a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, are set to attend camp.
Also accepting mini-camp invitations were senior national team newcomers DeWanna Bonner (Phoenix Mercury), Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky), Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Lindsey Harding (Los Angeles Sparks), Briann January (Indiana Fever), Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock), Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars), Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky), Monica Wright (Minnesota Lynx) and Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars).
The mini-camp roster also includes seven collegians, four of them -- Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart -- from U.S. National Team and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma's Huskies squad, and three others -- Kayla McBride (University of Notre Dame), Odyssey Sims (Baylor University), Alyssa Thomas (University of Maryland) -- from other elite college programs.
"The Committee did a great job of identifying players for this camp," said Auriemma in a statement issued by USA Basketball. "First, you have some who have helped us already win world championships and gold medals at the Olympics and those who certainly we need to take a look at to prepare for the future. Ideally, you would love to have a team that is comprised of enough veteran leadership, enough young players with experience and enough young players who might be there for the first time. Within this group we have a mixture of all of those.
"I think what the Committee did, which I think is interesting, there are a lot of young WNBA players who are on the list," Auriemma continued. "With an eye toward the future there are players who have excelled at the college level already and who have also excelled at USA Basketball at a young age, who three years from now, four years from now, are going to be WNBA players. So, it's great to get a head start to see where the future really lies. I think that's one thing USA Basketball has always been great at, preparing for the future. This is another great example of that."
The training camp marks the beginning of a new quadrennium for the USA Basketball Women's National Team, which over the next four years will compete in the 2014 FIBA World Championship (Sept. 27 - Oct. 5 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey), and if the USA qualifies, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games (Aug. 5 - 21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), as well as additional USA training camps and exhibition games.
Four prior USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year honorees have been named to the mini-camp roster, including three-time honoree Taurasi (2006, 2010, 2012), as well as Augustus (2003), Charles (2009) and Stewart (2011).
Though the majority of the mini-camp roster would be newcomers if named to the Senior Women's National Team, only one player is completely new to USA Basketball international competition. Thirty-two of the athletes on the training camp roster have competed for USA Basketball internationally at some point in their career and 17 were members of the 2009-12 USA Basketball Women's National Team pool, including Appel, Augustus, Bird, Catchings, Charles, Dupree, Fowles, Griner, Harding, McCoughtry, Moore, Parker, Pondexter, Taurasi, Vandersloot, Whalen and Young.
The list of invitees includes 10 of the last 12 No. 1 picks in the WNBA Draft: Griner (2013), Ogwumike (2012), Moore (2011), Charles (2010), McCoughtry (2009), Parker (2008), Harding (2007), Augustus (2006), Taurasi (2004) and Bird (2002); 13 All-WNBA selections: Augustus, Bird, Catchings, Charles, Delle Donne, Fowles, McCoughtry, Moore, Parker, Pondexter, Taurasi, Whalen and Young; and 19 WNBA All-Stars: Augustus, Bird, Catchings, Charles, Delle Donne, Dupree, Fowles, Griner, Johnson, McCoughtry, Moore, Ogwumike, Parker, Pondexter, Robinson, Taurasi, Vandersloot, Whalen and Young.
Six of the collegiate athletes invited already boast impressive international credentials. Dolson, who was injured in 2013 and unable to try out for the USA World University Games Team, won gold medals at the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship; Hartley teamed up with Dolson in 2010 and 2011, and also captured gold medals at the 2012 FIBA 3x3 World Championship and 2013 World University Games; McBride was on the 2010 U18 squad; Mosqueda-Lewis won gold medals with four teams, including the 2009 USA U16 National, 2010 USA U17 World Championship, 2011 U19 World Championship and 2013 USA World University Games teams; Sims has a pair of gold medals from the 2011 and 2013 USA World University Games teams, earning World University Games Co-MVP honors in 2013; while Stewart is the youngest training camp participant, but owns the most international experience. Stewart captured gold at the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship, listed on the all-tournament team at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship after leading the U.S. to gold, earned gold and MVP honors at the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and most recently was named tournament MVP after earning gold at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship. Additionally, Stewart was the lone high school athlete on the 2011 USA Pan American Games Team and was named the 2011 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year.
Members of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee include USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan; WNBA appointees Reneé Brown, WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, Dan Hughes, San Antonio Silver Stars Head Coach and General Manager, and Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun Vice President and General Manager; and three-time Olympic and two-time FIBA World Championship gold medalist Katie Smith, who played in nearly 200 games for USA Basketball from 1993-2008, and serves as the athlete representative.
Source: Substantial portions of this story were taken from a USA Basketball press release.