Bird, Taurasi picked for fifth U.S. Olympic team

    Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Guards Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have been named to the U.S. women’s basketball Olympic team for the fifth time, while there are six first-time Olympians on the squad.

The 12-member U.S. team announced Monday morning will compete in the Tokyo Olympics — to be held July 23-Aug. 8 — in pursuit of the Americans’ seventh consecutive gold medal in the sport. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, a player on the 1996 team that started this streak of gold medals for the U.S. women, is the Olympic team coach.

One of her former Gamecocks stars, forward A’ja Wilson, is among the first-time Olympians. Wilson was the WNBA MVP in 2020 for Las Vegas.

The others slated to compete in their first Olympics are Washington guard Ariel Atkins, Minnesota forward Napheesa Collier, Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray and Seattle guard Jewell Loyd. Wilson and Loyd were both on the 2018 FIBA World Cup-winning team.

Seattle’s Bird and Phoenix’s Taurasi, former teammates at UConn, join a small group of five-time Olympians in basketball. Others on the women’s side to do that were the United States’ Teresa Edwards and Brazil’s Adriana Moises. On the men’s side were Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro, Brazil’s Oscar Schmidt, Australia’s Andrew Gaze and Puerto Rico’s Teófilo Cruz.

Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles was picked for her fourth team and Washington center Tina Charles will be on her third Olympic squad.

Phoenix center Brittney Griner and Seattle forward Breanna Stewart, who are on their second Olympic team, round out the U.S. elections.

The two most prominent players who were on the 2018 World Cup team but are not on this Olympic squad are Washington forward/guard Elena Delle Donne and Los Angeles forward Nneka Ogwumike, both former WNBA MVPs. Delle Donne was on the 2016 Olympic team, but Ogwumike didn’t get selected that year, which was her MVP season when she won a championship with the Sparks. Ogwumike also did not get selected in 2012, her rookie season, when she was the No. 1 pick out of Stanford.

Delle Donne missed all of last season and has not played yet this season because of back issues. Ogwumike, president of the players’ union executive committee, played in the WNBA bubble last season and has appeared in five games this season; it was announced June 3 that she would be out four to six weeks with a knee sprain.

“USA Basketball has never been in a better place,” said Staley, who won three Olympic golds as a player and was an assistant coach for two other Olympic championship teams. “I’m honored to be the coach of such an amazing collection of talented women, both those named to the team and those who gave their all the last few years but won’t be with us in Tokyo.

“The fact that some of the players who won’t suit up this summer would start for any other country is a testament to their talent and to what USA Basketball has done to build a program that lifts up our female athletes every single day.”

Joining Staley’s staff as assistant coaches are recently retired Seattle head coach Dan Hughes, Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve and Connecticut team president Jennifer Rizzotti.

The U.S. Olympic team selection committee is chaired by USA women’s national team director Carol Callan, and includes former Olympian and current Minnesota Lynx assistant Katie Smith, WNBA head of league operations Bethany Donaphin, Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller and UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who coached the 2012 and ’16 Olympic teams.

Source: Read Full Article