USA Basketball names Olympic Team

Elena Delle Donne puts up a shot during USA Basketball team camp last fall, as Angel McCoughtry and Candace Parker look on. Photo courtesy of USA Basketball.
Elena Delle Donne puts up a shot during USA Basketball team camp last fall, as Angel McCoughtry and Candace Parker look on. Photo courtesy of USA Basketball.

The 12 members of this year’s Olympic basketball team were named Wednesday, two days after the omission of one two-time Olympian was leaked.

Tamika Catchings, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will play on their fourth Olympic team together this summer, while two-time gold medalists Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles join them. Returning members from the 2012 team include Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Tina Charles and Angel McCoughtry. Three newcomers also join the team: Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart.

Forward Candace Parker, who helped the U.S. win gold in 2008 and 2012, was left off the final roster. Reports of the omission became public Monday, but USA Basketball didn’t comment on it until today.

U.S. Olympic Team committee chair Carol Callan acknowledged Parker is a great player and has helped USA Basketball a lot in the past, from the time she was in high school. But Callan declined to address specific reasons that Parker wasn’t included on this year’s team.

“As a committee, we don’t get into specifics speaking about each player publicly. Needless to say, there are a lot of deliberations,” Callan said. “We have a committee for a reason. Every player has an advocate, and in that case, it’s not just one person who is making a decision. So, I may not be able to satisfy your question with an answer specifically of why or why not, but I think what it does speak to is that we have incredible depth on this team.”

Callan said depth contributed to the tough decision-making.

“We have ten Olympians….from 2012. We had five more newcomers in the World Championship. That’s 15 athletes, without even considering some of the emerging young players that we have currently,” Callan said. “We’re looking at depth and talent at each position, and there are just a lot of numbers games that are played at that 3‑4 position. That is the strength of our team.”

“So, we appreciate Candace. It’s not an easy call to make. It’s not an easy call to hear, from her perspective. And yet what we are trying to do is pick a team collectively that we feel has the best chance to win the gold medal, and we think we’ve done that.”

The Committee which chose the team is comprised of Callan; WNBA chief of basketball operations Renee Brown; San Antonio Stars coach Dan Hughes; Connecticut Sun president and general manager Chris Sienko; and New York Liberty associate head coach Katie Smith.

This will be University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma’s second consecutive Olympics as head coach of the team. He said the players selected were the best choices available in each position.

“When you added the three players that we added, Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart, what they have accomplished in their careers up to this point really does set them apart from almost everyone else that would be a candidate for those positions,” Auriemma said.

“What has to happen now is, if I were to ask you or anyone else:  Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA, to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen, you really start to look around, and you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered going forward.”

The Olympic Games will be Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro.

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