Sept. 5, 2010 • Washington, D.C.
In the rafters at Cy-Fair High School in Texas hangs the high school jersey of 2009-12 USA Basketball Women's National Team member Lindsey Harding (Washington Mystics). Her college jersey is retired as well, with Harding being only the second women's basketball at Duke University to be so honored. This week in the Washington, D.C., area, however, Harding is on the basketball court in a USA practice jersey, competing for one of 12 roster spots on the 2010 USA Women's World Championship Team.
Also a member of the 2007-08 USA Women's National Team, Harding is no stranger to USA training camps and exhibition tournaments. She helped the USA to a 4-0 exhibition record in Italy in 2007, a 2-0 mark in Spain in 2008 and a 4-2 finish in the 2008 Good Luck Beijing Tournament in China. With the WNBA's Washington Mystics in 2010, her second season with the Mystics and her fourth overall in the WNBA, Harding started in all 34 games played and averaged 12.1 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.
You might think that after missing the cut for the 2008 Olympic Team, Harding felt discouraged, but you'd be wrong. In fact, Harding told USABasketball.com she has felt like, 'kind of an underdog,' since high school.
You did not get a
chance to play for USA Basketball at the junior or developmental level, were
you aware of USA Basketball and the teams it fields when you were in high school?
I was never selected for any of that. Going back to high school, for all of the McDonald's awards and all of that, I was passed over. I felt that I should have made those teams, but as far as USA, that was way out there. I just thought maybe one day. To have the opportunity to play in the Olympics was a dream of mine -- like a dream, dream, way out there. Then I got my first opportunity right out of college after my senior year.
You were a pretty
decorated athlete in high school, though.
I had some things, but not like all the other freshmen coming in with me. They had all played in McDonald's, they all were WBCA All-Americans, they all were all-state or Gatorade State Player of the Year. I wasn't even like the Texas state player of the year. I might have been one year, but I was a Parade All-American and a few other things. I always felt like I was kind of an underdog, kind of behind. I always knew that I had to work harder to get where I wanted to be.
When did you first
have dreams of playing in the Olympics?
Actually, I was a strong track runner. I started running track when I was six years old, so I wanted to run track in the Olympics like Jackie Joyner Kersey. That was my goal until I started to play basketball and I thought, 'Wow, to play in the Olympics.' That was probably in high school or college.
When did you start
Probably when I was 12 or 13 years old. My junior year of high school I decided to drop track for my senior year. I was going to get to go to college for either track or basketball, and I wasn't sure which one I wanted to do. I love them both.
How did you decide
between pursuing track or basketball?
The one thing about basketball, I just love the team. I love that if you mess up, you have four other people that have your back. In track if you mess up, it's your fault, which is a good thing and a bad thing. I just love the team environment.
Do you see your track
background in your basketball game?
Basketball is running, and I use my speed a lot. You don't get full speed all the time, but I love to get out in transition and run the floor.
Can you take me back
to what it felt like when you were first named to the 2007-08 USA Women's National
Team? Fresh out of college, what was your first national team experience like?
I was scared. I was scared because first off, I'm competing with the best players in the world that have played with each other in the WNBA and on other USA teams, and I'm just a newbie kid -- as a point guard trying to be a general and having to tell them what to do. So, I was really nervous, but I just came in and worked really hard to earn some of their respect. They were great players and they responded, and I learned a lot.
You had two more national
team experiences in 2007 and 2008, did the nervousness wear off by then?
I think any time I'm playing for USA Basketball there's a nervousness in a good way, an anxiousness, because any time I step on the court, I don't have Mystics on my jersey, I don't have my high school on, I have USA on my jersey and some people are looking at you and your representation of that country. So, no matter if it's the Olympics or something smaller, like the Good Luck Beijing Tournament, you are representing a lot, and it's a lot on your shoulders. You think about that, and I just want everyone to be proud. Win or lose, I just want people to be proud of us, and me and what we are doing.
How did you respond
when you missed the cut for the 2008 Olympic Team?
Honestly, that was my first go at it. Some people train and train, years and years, two or three Olympics until they make one. And so, that was my first go, and if I had made it, it would have been like, 'Wow.' I probably needed more overseas experience too, because the game is completely different internationally. I feel more prepared this year, with my experience overseas -- a few times I have gone over there playing with USA Basketball, so I feel a little more experienced. I'm not saying it wasn't a big deal. I was hopeful to make the team, but it was kind of like, 'OK, hopefully I'll get another shot. They gave me one, so hopefully I'll get another.' So, when I got the phone call this year to join the 2009-12 USA National Team, it was a great sigh of relief and then excitement.
How do you feel after
your first few practices?
It's good. Geno (Auriemma), you don't know what to expect from him. We've heard rumors about his practices, but I think he lightened up for us because we are just coming off the WNBA season. Right now, it's about learning his system, and his system is great. I actually really like his offense. The biggest thing is trying to read your players, read your team and just trying to get that chemistry. That's the hardest thing in women's basketball for USA teams because the other teams play together for long periods of time, and we only come together for a few weeks, put a team together and go play. So, I think finding that chemistry is the hardest thing, but that's what these practices are about.
You've trained with
USA Basketball in 2007, 2008 and 2010, what keeps you motivated to keep working?
When I've done stuff, I've always wanted to be the best. And to have the opportunity to play for your country, that's the highest level of basketball. That's what I want to accomplish. I want to win a WNBA championship as well, that's a great honor, but I also want to be able to say that I played for my country. And I want to win a gold medal, don't forget that. I want to win a gold medal and be able to say I've done that. Very few people have done that. That would be the biggest accomplishment of my life, other than graduating college. I couldn't even explain with words how it would feel to win a gold medal if I ever got that chance.