With one year until the opening tip of the 2020 Olympic women’s basketball tournament, USA Basketball unveiled a collaborative and expanded USA Women’s National Team program and training plan that will benefit the growth of women’s basketball across the nation and has the support of the WNBA and, most importantly, the backing of the members of the USA National Team.
The program features increased training opportunities that will elevate the USA National Team and its athletes domestically, and include ancillary events designed to inspire future female leaders and promote participation in women’s basketball at all levels.
USA Basketball has secured commitments from eight athletes from the 2019-20 USA National Team pool to participate in five of the team’s training segments that will take place between November 2019 and April 2020. USA Basketball will round out the training camp rosters with additional national team athletes as their schedules allow.
Headlining the program are longtime USA National Team members Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), who own a combined eight Olympic and seven FIBA World Cup gold medals and collaborated with USA Basketball on the expanded national team program.
“I’m very excited about this program,” said Bird. “It’s the right amount of training so we can gear up and get ready for the Olympics, and also it gives us the right amount of exposure where we can really create some momentum heading into the Olympics. It’s not only about trying to win another gold medal, it’s about trying to win our seventh in a row, that’s the story. It gives us a chance to do all of those things, but above all it gives us a chance to get together as potential Olympians and play.”
“As we know, every year it gets tougher,” said Taurasi, who first suited up for USA Basketball in 2000 on a U18 team. “Every competition gets a little bit harder. So, this is a great opportunity to train, play, be in competitive situations with a team that hopefully is going to Tokyo to win a gold medal.
“This was something that, at this point in our careers we know how important it is to have a good, last hurrah and we brainstormed with a couple other players and put together a plan,” Taurasi added. “Carol (Callan) and Jim (Tooley) were very receptive. I think they were actually more excited about the idea than we were. It’s just something that came together literally at dinner on a piece of paper with some crayons.”
Also committed to USA Basketball for the five segments are: three-time Olympic and 2010 World Cup gold medalist Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx), 2016 Olympic and 2018 World Cup gold medalist Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics), two-time World Cup gold medalist Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), 2018 World Cup gold medalist A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces) and USA National Team members Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings) and Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles Sparks).
“The fact that USA Basketball is being out front in providing our USA National Team an opportunity to train for the Olympic Games is something that should be highlighted across the country,” said Dawn Staley, USA National Team and University of South Carolina head coach. “The fact that resources are being put into a much needed area in one, helping women stay closer to home with their families, two, we get to prep for the 2020 Olympic Games and three, it’s an opportunity to be leaders in an area which has been lacking for some time. I’m happy about it because it gives us more opportunity to prep, knowing that the windows get smaller and smaller as we get closer and closer to the Olympic Games for one reason or another. I’m super excited about it. I hope it develops into something that’s long-lasting, because it’s needed. Plus, when we have the likes of Diana and Sue leading the way, it always makes for some great preparation.
“Over the past seven years probably is where it’s been felt the most with the lack of preparation time. Just finding windows to prep. This program gives us an opportunity to keep a core group of players together and to build chemistry and cohesion while some of our other players who are in the pool are overseas playing. So, any little bit counts.”
“USA Basketball believes that this new Women’s National Team initiative will help continue to build awareness of the great legacy of the USA Women’s National Team,” said USA Basketball Chairman Martin Dempsey. “We owe it to the next generation of young girls and young women who hope to represent their country in the USA Basketball uniform someday to keep these incredibly accomplished athletes and great role models at home and among them.”
“First of all, this program wouldn’t happen without the support of the athletes, USA Basketball Board, WNBA, NCAA and other women’s basketball stakeholders,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball CEO. “I extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved for their support as our USA Women’s National Team goes for its seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal in 2020. Aside from preparing our national team for the Olympic Games, the objectives of this program are to amplify the profile of not only this team, but women’s basketball as a whole. There is no better way to do that then with the best women’s basketball players in the world.”
“We are thrilled to collaborate with USA Basketball on this program to showcase these amazing athletes ahead of the 2020 Olympics,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “This is a tremendous opportunity to bolster visibility for women’s basketball and have some of the WNBA’s top players remain in the United States for additional training.”
The USA National Team, which already has qualified for the 2020 Olympics, will take advantage of and participate in FIBA’s new Olympic qualification process, that provides nations with two windows of competition, Nov. 10-18, 2019, and Feb. 2-10, 2020.
As was the case over the past three quadrenniums, the 2019-20 USA National Team roster, which currently lists 34 athletes, will be fluid. It is expected that the official, 12-member 2020 U.S. Olympic Team will be comprised of players from the 2019-20 USA National Team.
In support of growing interest in the sport of women’s basketball at all levels while recognizing the opportunity for current student-athletes to compete against former college stars, the NCAA granted waivers to allow member schools to compete in exhibition games against the 2019-20 USA National Team.
Because of the cooperation by the NCAA and its member schools, prior to the two FIBA tournament windows, the USA National Team will compete in a series of exhibition games against some of the nation’s premier NCAA Division I programs, similar to the college tours conducted by USA Basketball teams ahead of the 1996, 2000 and 2008 Olympic Games. Over the course of those three tours, the USA earned a 39-1 record competing against a combined total of 30 different NCAA Division I teams. The complete game schedule will be announced at a later date.
USA Basketball will also work with the WNBA, NBA, NCAA, and USA Basketball Youth and Sport Development Division to provide the USA National Team athletes with additional opportunities to train and to promote and grow the game across the country.
Members of the USA National Team also will compete in the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup from Sept. 22-29 in Puerto Rico, and participating athletes for that competition will be identified as WNBA teams conclude their season.
In addition to the eight members committed to the national team training windows, current members of the 2019-20 USA National Team include: Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Tina Charles (New York Liberty), Layshia Clarendon (Connecticut Sun), Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx), Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky), Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky), Asia Durr (New York Liberty), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream), Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm), Kayla McBride (Las Vegas Aces), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Kelsey Mitchell (Indiana Fever), Tiffany Mitchell (Indiana Fever), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Chiney Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces), Katie Lou Samuelson (Chicago Sky), Odyssey Sims (Minnesota Lynx), Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm), Brittney Sykes (Atlanta Dream), Jasmine Thomas (Connecticut Sun), Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun), Sydney Wiese (Los Angeles Sparks) and Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream).
Dan Hughes (Seattle Storm), Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx) and Jennifer Rizzotti (George Washington), who assisted the USA to a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup, are serving as the 2019-20 USA National Team assistant coaches.