Team USA: Wilson, Stewart lead quest for eighth-straight gold

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Sportem
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When the USA Basketball Women’s National Team goes for an eighth-straight, and 10th overall, gold medal at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, the following 12 players will be representing the red, white and blue:

  • A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces: The two-time WNBA MVP and 2023 WNBA Finals MVP will look to add a second gold medal to her expanding trophy collection.
  • Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun: It will be the first Olympic Games for the WNBA’s triple-double engine and 2023 MVP runner-up.
  • Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty: The MVP of the Olympic Tournament in 2020 and the WNBA’s MVP for a second time last season can secure a third Olympic gold medal.
  • Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury: The 6-foot-9 singular interior presence is blessedly back for her third Olympic Games.
  • Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas Aces: A 2020 Olympian, the 2022 Finals MVP is expected to serve as the Americans’ starting point guard.
  • Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury: The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer who will be 42 years old when the Games begin, will pursue her record sixth (and presumably final?) gold medal in Paris
  • Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces: The 2020 3×3 gold medalist will represent the 5×5 national team squad for the first time in a major international competition.
  • Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm: It is the second Olympic Games for last season’s WNBA leading scorer.
  • Kahleah Copper, Phoenix Mercury: The 2021 WNBA Finals MVP and 2022 World Cup winner will play on the Olympic stage for the first time.
  • Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces: It will be the first 5×5 Olympic experience for the 3×3 gold medalist in 2020 and World Cup champion in 2022.
  • Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx: This member of the 2020 Olympic team returns after earning First Team All-WNBA honors in 2023.
  • Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty: The WNBA’s 3-point queen, who won gold as a member of the 2022 World Cup team, makes her Olympic debut.

Chelsea Gray’s lingering lower-leg injury, suffered during Game 3 of the 2023 WNBA Finals, raises uncertainty about her status for Paris. She has yet to play for the Las Vegas Aces during the 2024 season, yet she participated in Team USA’s training camp in early April and consistently has expressed her intention to play in the Olympics.

The roster was assembled by a six-person selection committee, which, according to The Athletic, included three former Olympians in South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, who won two gold medals as a player for Team USA (1996, 2000) and one as a coach (2020), recently-named LSU assistant coach and three-time gold medalist Seimone Augustus (2008, 2012, 2016) and Old Dominion head coach and two-time gold medalist Delisha Milton-Jones (1996, 2000). The chair of the committee was Jennifer Rizzotti, president of the Connecticut Sun and coach of the USA Basketball 3×3 women’s Olympic team, while Bethany Donaphin, WNBA head of league operations, also was a member of the committee. Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve will serve as coach of the team.

The selection committee opted for an experienced squad, eschewing adding a few younger, future-focused additions, such as the Indiana Fever’s Caitlin Clark or Aliyah Boston. This posture is a departure from past precedence. For example, Stewart was still a collegian when she made her first Olympic team in 2016, while, in 2020, Collier had yet to establish herself as a surefire, international-caliber star. One could argue USA Basketball is erring in not continuing that tradition. Or, one could posit that USA Basketball should always have been focusing on the now, rather than the next. For as great as Stewart has become, only the fiercest Husky faithful and most fervent Lady Vol haters would argue that she should have been selected over prime Candace Parker in 2016. And in 2020, Nneka Ogwumike arguably deserved the spot over the less-seasoned Collier.

Compared to past iterations, the 2024 edition of Team USA, finally, reflects an attempt to put the best team together, regardless of popularity, politics or other privileges. And with the 12 members of Team USA combining for 18 WNBA titles, seven WNBA Finals MVPs, five WNBA MVPs, four WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and 44 All-WNBA honors, on top of an accumulation of All-Star selections, statistical achievements and collegiate accomplishments, it’s hard to dispute USA Basketball’s process or results.

Try and come for their jobs. An eighth-straight gold is on the way.

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