Jul 24, 2016
The United States Olympic women’s basketball hit the ground running this weekend, beginning practices less than a day after several players completed their pre-Olympic break WNBA schedule.
“It [practice] was light because most of us had games last night,” first time Olympian Elena Delle Donne said, “so we just kind of put in some plays, did the mind work, and tomorrow we’ll get after it.”
This minicamp in Los Angeles will not give the team too much time to prepare, but the strategy of coach Geno Auriemma gave some insight into why players enjoy having him as coach, the simplicity of an offense that allows the players to just play the game they know so well.
“If we can just get a framework to work with,” Auriemma explained, ”this is what we want to do, this is what we want to look like, this is how I want our team to approach things when we’re on offense, this is what I want it to look like when we’re on defense. And within that, just give them the freedom to do what they do best.”
Auriemma and his staff had Saturday and Sunday to work with their team, and on Monday they will get a sample of the squad in a game setting, as they play against the USA Select team, a group of talented “other” WNBA players like Jewell Loyd, Odyssey Sims, and Elizabeth Williams who USA Basketball deemed potential future Olympians.
Delle Donne is looking forward to playing against the Select team.
“It’s going to be a great time,” she said. “Right at the beginning I believe they’re going to help practice with us a little bit. It will be a great scrimmage. Obviously, WNBA players, there is nothing better than going against the best of the best.”
While players like Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart and Brittney Griner are looking forward to their first Olympic Games, Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings, and Diana Taurasi are each playing in their fourth.
For Catchings, putting on the USA uniform never gets old.
“It’s truly an honor to be able to come out here,” the Indiana Fever star said. “It’s a blessing to be able to represent our country and go out there and know that we’re going to come out every single day and prepare and get ready.”
Bird agreed with Catchings, and said that some great players go through an entire career without this opportunity.
“I just feel really lucky and don’t want to take the moment for granted,” Bird commented. “I’m really excited for this fourth opportunity to participate in the Olympics.”
On the heels of another national championship, Auriemma now faces the challenge of guiding some of the best professionals in the world to an expected gold medal, repeating the success he and USA Basketball had in London in 2012.
“They’re such a good group,” he said. “They consistently work really, really hard. They have such a great amount of respect for each other and they work really hard to make each other look good. It just makes me feel excited to want to coach them and today kind of brought it all back.”
The USA Olympic team will play the USA Select team on Monday, July 25th at 10 pm ET at the Galen Center, on the campus of the University of Southern California. The game will be broadcast by NBATV.