USA Basketball Women’s National Team Kicks Off Training Camp
Gathering in Washington, D.C., from their respective WNBA teams throughout the country, the 2012 USA Basketball Women's National Team kicked off its pre-Olympic training camp today with its first practice at American University.
USA head coach Geno Auriemma has a talented mix of veterans, including two-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), who are hoping for a third in 2012, as well as first-time Olympians Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Asjha Jones (Conecticut Sun), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx). Competing in her second Olympics after winning gold in Athens in 2004 is Swin Cash (Chicago Sky); while Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) captured gold in Beijing in 2008.
Earlier in the day, USA team members Augustus, Cash, Moore, Parker and Whalen, as well as Auriemma and USA assistant coach Doug Bruno, held a clinic for daughters of military members at the D.C. Armory as part of USA Basketball's Hoops for Troops initiative.
And while the team just came together, its first challenge is right around the corner in an exhibition game against Brazil at 5:30 p.m. EDT on July 16 at the Verizon Center, which will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Before you get the chance to watch them take the court, hear from Auriemma as well as three U.S. players after their first practice.
Geno Auriemma (USA and University of Connecticut head coach)
What’s it like for you today to get things going? Is there excitement, is there an anxiousness?
Yeah, for four years we’ve been kind of planning for this, and you just keep thinking it’s down the road, its down the road and down the road and the next thing you know you show up and you’re not the national team anymore, were the actual Olympic Team. To see the players and to see their reaction to all of sudden it’s here. It just energized me, the coaching staff and everyone else, and now we’re one day closer. With each day that we practice we are one day closer, so there’s a sense of urgency that we better get it right.
How did you feel about practice?
It felt pretty good. We’re lucky in that in the World Championship 10 of the players played in that, so all we’re doing is reviewing some of the stuff that we did and throwing in some new things. But for the most part they get it, they understand it. There are some things we’re going to have to do a little bit better, obviously. But given the fact that they all played all week; they’ve all been traveling; they have every right to be tired and to not be focused; and it was just the opposite. I was really proud of them.
Some players said they felt the Seattle practice really helped because you were able to get into things as little quicker having had that camp just six weeks ago. Can you talk about that?
The short period of time we spent in Seattle with a little bit of practice and a couple of games, it was the first time the team had been together so it really made an impact. All the other times it was like – so-and-so’s not here, so-and-so is not here, so in Seattle they all looked up and said ‘wow’ this is our team. All of a sudden I think they pay attention more. There’s a certain awareness level that’s higher and they carried that over. Now we just build on it
Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun)
On gathering with the team:
It's awesome. We've been playing for our teams in the WNBA, but this has always been in the background. Everyone wants to ask about it, and now we are finally here playing with the best players in the world for one of the best coaches. Everything is great about USA Basketball, so it's just fun to get started.
The team looked like it hit that ground running. Do you feel this team has some chemistry already?
I think the camp we had in Seattle in May helped a lot. We don't get a lot of time to practice together, but the time we do have is quality and everyone kind of remembers the things that we learned back then.
Are you excited to get started?
It's an honor to being with, and I think we are all just blessed to be a part of this. Any time you put this jersey on, you know what's expected of you. You are expected to play a certain way always, no matter what, no matter who you are playing against. And you are expected to win above all, so it's a lot of pressure, but it's a good pressure.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On the team's first day:
We did a lot of good things today. Sometimes you take for granted the three days of training in Seattle, but I think those three days really helped us come today and just step right into the stuff we are working on, so I thought today was a really good day.
This is something you’ve been doing a long time. Is this something you look forward to, the first day, getting it going?
Yeah. For me, my favorite part is when you get here and you see everyone for the first time again. We’ve been apart for a month and half, two months, and it feels good for everyone being together.
You know what the Olympic lead up is like, is there an excitement you feel?
To me it’s still really special, it’s my third one, never been to London, I’m excited, I’m really excited to play with Sue and all of these guys for not the first time but the first time in a while.
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
It was like the first day of school, how did you feel about getting out there today?
It was great; it was awesome. I felt good. We last played on Thursday and then went up to ESPN and did some things at the clinic, so today to kind of get those first practice jitters and all that energy out is a really good feeling. It felt good to get up and down a little bit and make some plays and just get out there and play.
You’re in the middle of the WNBA season but is it possible to look forward to getting this going, is it that kind of feeling?
Yeah, it is something you have on your mind, in the back of your head. You have to focus on your individual WNBA team, but then you know a big event like this is coming and you just want to stay as prepared as you can; stay healthy, eat well, be rested and then come into this and just play as hard as you can
Did the Seattle training (in May 2012) help?
Definitely, because we got to be together for a couple of days out there and see each other again, go through some plays and play a couple of games out there so I think that definitely helps.