2000 Olympic Gold Medalist Yolanda Griffith Completes 12-Member 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team
June 19, 2004 Colorado Springs, Colorado
USA Basketball announced today that 2000 Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith of the Sacramento Monarchs was added to the 2004 USA Basketball Women's National Team today, completing the 12-member squad that is expected to defend the USA's gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Aug. 13-29. Like the rest of the team and coaching staff, Griffith's selection was made by the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee.
"I'm very excited about this," said Griffith. "I wasn't able to play with the team in the spring because of my overseas commitment and I thought it might count against me. I'm glad they decided to give me this chance, I think that my performance in 2000, being able to score, rebound and help out my team made a difference.
"All the teams in Athens will be challenging. I can't pinpoint just one or two teams because everybody's going to be coming after us because we won the gold in 96 and 2000. We need to come out and not be too cocky, but go out and play as a team. There are a lot of great players on the USA team, players who can run the floor, who can score and rebound and I think we've got that from 1-12. We need to set the tempo from the begining. From the first five to the last five, we need to come out ready to play every day."
"We are very, very excited about adding someone like Yolanda Griffith in the post who has some height, who can rebound the ball and who has the ability to score down low," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor. "Yo fits that bill very nicely. What an addition to the team, she is just a tremendous player. Looking at this team, I really like the makeup of it. We have a great combination of size, shooting ability and players who can defend the ball. Now we just have to come together in August, put everything together and get ready for Athens."
"Yolanda is the perfect missing piece to the puzzle," said USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee chair Renee' Brown, Vice President of Player Personnel for the WNBA. "She not only brings Olympic experience to the 2004 USA Basketball Women's National Team, she has significant international experience. She knows what it takes to win at this level and the Committee feels the team we have put together has everything it needs as we prepare for Athens to defend our gold medal."
Chancellor will be assisted on the sidelines in Athens by Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm), Gail Goestenkors (Duke University) and C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers University). The 11 previously announced core group members of the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team include Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Swin Cash (Detroit Shock), 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), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets).
The U.S. squad will get together for its first practice with all 12 members on Aug. 3 in New York from 7:00-9:00 p.m. (all times local) at Baruch College. On Aug. 4, the USA squad will hold an 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. practice at Baruch College, prior to a one-hour shooting practice, beginning at 3:15 p.m., at Radio City Music Hall. Following the two days of practice, the USA will face a team of WNBA All-Stars in a contest dubbed WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Game at Radio City, which will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. on Aug. 5. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-877-WNBA-TIX, online at WNBA.com or ticketmaster.com, or through Ticketmaster locations in Connecticut, New Jersey or New York.
Heading to Europe for its final tune-up before Athens, the U.S. will compete in a tournament in Salamanca, Spain, along with 2004 Olympic competitor Spain, as well as 2003 European Championship fourth and fifth place finishers Poland and France, respectively. The pairings for the tournament, which will feature two contests on Aug. 8 and a consolation and championship game on Aug. 9, will be announced by Spain at a later date.
Griffith returns to the red, white and blue in 2004 for her second Olympic Games. A dominant inside factor in the USA's efforts in Sydney, Griffith capped the USA's 8-0 Olympic gold medal run as the team's top rebounder (8.8 rpg.) and third highest scorer (11.5 ppg.). Prior to the Olympics, as a member of the 1999-2000 USA National Team, Griffith was the squad's second leading scorer (10.4 ppg.) and third best rebounder (6.1 rpg.), while aiding the squad to a 38-2 pre-Olympic record and the 1999 U.S. Olympic Cup title.
Griffith got her USA Basketball start as a member of the 1990 U.S. Olympic Festival North Team that captured the bronze medal and finished as the Festival's second leading rebounder (8.8 rpg.). Eight years later she returned to USA Basketball as a member of the 98 USA Women's National Team that played five games against Australia in September 1998 and averaged 6.6 ppg. and led the U.S. on the glass with 8.8 rpg.
Selected by the Sacramento Monarchs as the No. 2 pick in the 1999 WNBA draft, Griffith made an immediate impact in the league, collecting MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and All-WNBA First Team accolades in 1999. Over the next four years the four-time WNBA All-Star (1999-2001, 2003) would go on to help lead Sacramento to three more playoff berths as the Monarchs advanced to the 2001 and 2003 Western Conference Finals.
Through nine games of the 2004 WNBA season, Griffith is averaging a league eighth best 15.7 ppg., fourth in the league in rebounding (8.4 rpg.) and tops everyone in steals per game (2.67 spg.). In less than six seasons in the league, Griffith has amassed a total of 2,484 points (16.2 ppg.), 1,489 rebounds (9.7 rpg.), 316 steals (2.07 spg.), 222 assists (1.5 apg.) and 220 blocked shots (1.44 bpg.). More impressive, especially for a player who entered the league in its third season, Griffith currently ranks No. 11 among all-time WNBA scoring leaders, third in rebounds, sixth in steals and seventh in blocked shots.
Prior to playing in the WNBA, Griffith was selected by the Long Beach StingRays as the No. 1 pick of the 1997 ABL Draft and at the end of the 97-98 season was traded in the expansion draft to the Chicago Condors. A hit in the ABL, Griffith was named the 1998 ABL Defensive Player of the Year and All-ABL first team, and finished second in the ABL's 1998 Most Valuable Player voting to 2000 Olympic teammate Natalie Williams.
Griffith got her professional start in Germany, where she played from 1993-97 and finished as the top scorer and rebounder in the EuroLeague in 1997 averaging 24.7 ppg. and 16.0 rpg. Continuing to play overseas, this past season Griffith helped UMMC Ekaterinburg to the EuroLeague quarterfinals and averaged EuroLeague bests of 21.0 ppg. and 12.9 rpg.