2002 Gold Medalist Sue Bird Added To USA Women's Senior National Team
February 5, 2004 Colorado Springs, Colorado
"I am so excited about this, it's a huge honor," said Bird. "It will mean so much to be in the Olympics, to be an Olympian and hopefully to win a gold medal. But mostly to be in the position to represent my country, playing alongside the best and for the best, will mean so much to me. That in itself will be quite an accomplishment.
"Even though I'm young, I've played in a lot of big games, both in college and with Seattle," continued Bird. "Being a point guard, the things I do might not show up in the box score per se, but I'm in a spot where I'm going to do whatever it takes to win. I'll do whatever the team needs me to do, whatever the coaches ask of me, that's the type of person and player I am."
"I really believe that Sue Bird is a really nice fit for our basketball team," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor. "After our experience in China, she has shown me that she is ready to step in and really be a contributing part of this basketball team and accept whatever role that the coaching staff deems necessary for her to fit into."
"We're very excited that Sue will join the core players," said USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee chair Renee' Brown, who is the WNBA Vice President of Player Personnel. "Sue's participation in the World Championship for our gold medal winning team was very important. We felt that, besides her obvious talent, the chemistry she's formulated with the team because of the World Championship experience is very, very important. She knows the team, she knows Van's coaching style, so it will be a comfortable transition for her and the rest of the team."
The eight previously announced core group members of the eventual 12-member 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team include Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars), Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks), DeLisha Milton-Jones (Los Angeles Sparks), Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx), Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting), Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets). The final three players will be named at a later date.
Bird has donned a USA Basketball uniform four times, most recently as a member of the gold medal winning 2002 USA World Championship Team. Following on the heels of her senior season at the University of Connecticut, she joined in on the final two days of the 2002 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team spring training in Colorado Springs, Colo. In joining in on the workout, Bird, who quite literally stepped off the plane, changed and stepped onto the court, played well enough to be named to the squad. She then got her first taste of playing for her country at the senior level by helping the USA win the Australia-hosted Opals World Challenge title prior to arriving in China for the FIBA World Championship. Playing back-up to two-time Olympic gold medalist Staley and eventual 02 All-Worlds selection Johnson, Bird averaged 3.3 ppg. in Australia and upped that to 4.3 ppg. as the U.S. finished 9-0 in capturing the 2002 FIBA World Championship gold medal.
"It was my first opportunity to compete alongside some of the players who have already been named to the team and it was a wonderful learning experience," commented Bird. "I also got to play for coach Chancellor and coach Donovan. The experience in itself, both on the court and off the court, having the chance to see people who have been in the Olympics before, how they take representing their country very seriously and how they prepare for the competition, was a wonderful experience."
Her first foray into international basketball came as a member of the 2000 USA R. William Jones Cup Team that posted a perfect 4-0 record in Taipei, Taiwan, and earned the gold medal. Starting all four games, Bird passed off for a team high 4.3 assists per game, while adding 2.0 points and 2.5 rebounds a game. The 5-9 guard returned less than two months later as a member of the 2000 USA Basketball Select Team that competed against the eventual gold medal winning 2000 U.S. Olympic Team in an exhibition contest in front of a nationally televised audience.
Selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm, Bird helped her team to its best record and first playoff berth in franchise history as Seattle finished in fourth place in the Western Conference with a 17-15 record. In her second season in the league, Bird again helped Seattle up its victory record as the Storm went 18-16 in 2003.
A two-time All-Star and two-time All-WNBA first team selection, Bird was the second leading vote getter for the 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year honor. Additionally, Bird averaged 12.4 ppg. and a league second best 6.5 apg. in 2003, while boasting two-year averages of 13.3 ppg. and 6.2 apg.
Capping her four years at UConn with a perfect 39-0 record and her second NCAA title, Bird finished her collegiate career as the 2002 Naismith Player of the Year and 2002 Wade Trophy recipient, and was named 2002 Player of the Year by the Associated Press (A.P.) and U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Bird also was presented with the first annual Senior CLASS award in 2002, which is bestowed upon the nation's top senior basketball player. Additionally, Bird is a three-time (2000, 2001, 2002) Conseco/Nancy Lieberman-Cline National Point Guard of the Year honoree, earned the 2002 Honda Award as the Women's College Basketball Player of the Year and collected the 2002 ESPY as the top Female College Athlete of the Year.
All told, with Bird on the roster, Connecticut posted a 136-9 record (93.8 winning percentage), won a pair of NCAA crowns (2000, 2002) while advancing to four NCAA Tournaments, including the 2001 Final Four, and earned four Big East regular season and tournament titles.
2004 Olympic Games
The USA owns a 34-3 overall record (.919 winning percentage) in Olympic competition and has won a record four golds, one silver and one bronze medal in the six previous Olympic basketball competitions in which the U.S. competed. The United States, which earned the silver medal at the inaugural Olympic women's basketball tournament in 1976, earned its first gold at the 84 Games in Los Angeles and captured back-to-back golds with unblemished 8-0 records in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
With the exception of host Greece and the United States, which earned its Olympic qualifying berth by virtue of its 2002 World Championship gold medal finish, teams were required to qualify through zone qualifying tournaments for the 2004 Olympics. Earning the 10 remaining spots among Athens competitors were: Australia (Oceania #1), Brazil (Americas #1), China (Asia #1), Czech Republic (Europe #2), Japan (Asia #2), New Zealand (Oceania #2), Nigeria (Africa #1), Russia (Europe #1), South Korea (Asia #3) and Spain (Europe #3).
The Olympic draw was conducted Jan. 26 and the U.S. was placed in Group B with China, Czech Republic, New Zealand, South Korea and Spain. Group A consists of Australia, Brazil, Greece, Japan, Nigeria and Russia.
The United States will open preliminary round play against New Zealand on Aug. 14, face the Czechs on Aug. 16, South Korea on Aug. 18, Spain on Aug. 20 and will close out preliminary round play versus China on Aug. 22. The top four teams from each preliminary round group will advance to the Aug. 25 quarterfinals, with the winners playing in the semifinals on Aug. 27 and the medal games will be contested Aug. 28.
The USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee which selected
the coaches and the first nine 2004 USA team members, consists of eight
members and a nonvoting chair. Brown serves as chair of the Committee,
which includes New York Liberty Senior Vice President and General Manager
Carol Blazejowski; Indiana Fever Chief Operating Officer Kelly Krauskopf;
Sacramento Monarchs General Manager Jerry Reynolds; Phoenix Mercury Vice
President of Operations Seth Sulka; Los Angeles Sparks General Manager
Penny Toler; and Stanford University head coach Tara VanDerveer, who piloted
the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team to a gold medal. Serving as athlete representatives
are Staley, 1996 and 2000 Olympic and 1998 World Championship gold medal
winner; and Lynette Woodard, a 1984 Olympic and 1990 World Championship