USA Basketball Teleconference Announcing Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi as members of the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team

May 12, 2004Story

Participants:

  • Renee' Brown (Chair of the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team, WNBA Vice President of Player Personnel)
  • Van Chancellor (2004 U.S. Women's Olympic Team head coach, WNBA Houston Comets head coach)
  • Swin Cash (Detroit Shock)
  • Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)

Opening Comments:
BROWN: As the chair of the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee it is my pleasure to officially introduce Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi as the two newest members of the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team. The Committee used the spring training sessions (to evaluate players). We played in places like Cuba, we played in Europe, we also played in the United States. That gave us an opportunity to evaluate the players we've named. There were a total of 10 athletes who were able to participate at various times. In addition to Diana and Swin, the players who were able to participate in the training camps included Cheryl Ford, Deanna Nolan, Tari Phillips, Ruth Riley, Tangela Smith, Michelle Snow, Nikki Teasley and Natalie Williams. In addition to these athletes, the Committee is evaluating additional player from the pool for the final roster spot.

We have not set a time line for the selection, but what I can tell you is what we're looking for. We currently have seven perimeter players and four post players. The final roster spot will most likely be a post player. We do feel we need to get a little bit bigger in that position.

In selecting Diana and Swin, the Committee felt that both contributed greatly to the team during the spring training. Swin had some big games for us, especially in Europe. Diana, amazingly, came out on a Thursday and stepped right in when we were playing Japan in Denver and did a great job. We were looking for a pair of post players and an outside shooter and with Swin, we fulfilled the post spot. She's the kind of player who's very versatile, she can go small forward and power forward. With Diana, we really feel like we filled that spot regarding a shooter.

CHANCELLOR:   I think they're tremendous additions. Both of them bring energy and enthusiasm. Swin has been a rebounding defensive machine who's been able to hit her shots out to about 15 feet. I felt we needed another outside shooter and Diana Taurasi's that person. She can play three positions. Swin plays the three-four, Diana's a two-guard who can play the point and also play the three. So when you add two versatile players, it gives you two people who can get after it all over the court, run the break. I also thought they were a tremendous fit for this basketball team and we're excited about having both of them (join the team).

CASH:   It's a tremendous honor for me to be named to this USA National Team. It's a blessing, it's been a dream of mine. Everyone has been great, from the Committee, the players, the coaches and I'm really excited to be able to contribute in any way I can.

TAURASI:  Like Swin said, it's an honor. When I was a little kid I watched the Olympics, I watched some of these players. And now to be a part of this and be on the court with them, playing with Swin and these other great players is a tremendous compliment and honor. I'm really excited to go out there and hopefully get a medal.

Talk about the fatigue factor that might come into play with such a long year
TAURASI:   I think it's definitely going to be a long summer. With the college season that runs six, seven months and then going straight into the WNBA and now the Olympics. But I'm looking forward to it, I think I can stay at a high level. A lot of it's mental, how you handle it mentally really effects how you play and how you treat different situations.

On playing with her Connecticut teammates again
TAURASI:   It felt great. When we played Japan in the training camp and Swin, Sue and I were on the court ... it's just fun to get back on the court. When we were on the court we have that good chemistry from playing together for two years. It was a lot of fun, because they're people I really care about and being on the team with them means a lot.

Are you still looking at Yolanda Griffith?
CHANCELLOR:   I think we'd be crazy if we weren't. But that's left up to the Committee. You've got to remember, I'm just the coach. But if I had a vote, yeah I'm going to look at Yolanda Griffith. She can rebound, she can score, she can do it all.

BROWN: Just like Van said, we are definitely looking at a player like Yolanda Griffith. Her Olympic experience, her Olympic experience, her versatility, what she brings to the game, she's definitely in that pool of players we're considering. As far as a time line, we don't have any date set for a final player to be selected. We are looking for a post player. We will let you know through Caroline (Williams, USA Basketball communications director) when that date will be.

You went from winning the national championship to playing with the USA National Team after one practice. How was that experience?
TAURASI:   At first I was a little nervous because whenever you join a new team, especially a team with so many veterans and great players, you really don't know how you're going to fit in. But with them, it was really easy. They made it easy for me to learn the plays, I pretty much had to learn everything in one practice, and I had people talking me through stuff. Everyone helped me, which made it easy for me. Then once the game came around, that's the fun part. When you play with other great players it's easy. The adjustment was a little hard at first, but I think I made it through it.

How much of a factor was it that Swin and Dee played for what is currently the preeminent college program, that they are accustomed to winning, goes into your thinking in how you filled out the team?
BROWN: When the Committee is looking to add players, with all respect to the colleges, that really is not something that we look at. We look at individual players and what they bring to the team. We're not looking at what college they attended, even though we are very fortunate to have players of Diana and Swin's caliber who have had that kind of collegiate success. But the international game is a completely different game. They're going to be going up against the best players in the world, and it's a different style of play. When we're putting a team together, from the Committee's standpoint, we're looking at who can play at that level and who can help us win the gold medal.

CHANCELLOR:  Bottom line. We didn't look at where you went or whether you won or not, we looked at the finished product. One thing that helped Swin and Diana with their finished product out of Connecticut, they had a great coach who taught them how to play the game. That, in my mind, is what helped them. Not just playing at Connecticut.

What do you think will be the most difficult adjustment in going up against international competition?
TAURASI:   Obviously there's an adjustment from playing in college to the WNBA. And now when you're talking about the Olympics, you're talking about the best players in there respective countries. That's going to be an adjustment. The game's only difference is going up another level and there's that certain adjustment period that you have to learn. Eventually you'll do it. Swin and I have played at a pretty high level since college and I think Swin and I will do a pretty good job of adjusting.

CASH:   There's obviously going to be an adjustment from the standpoint of the (difference in the) type of play in Europe to the type of play here, whether it's in college or in the WNBA. But I think the preparation of playing against some of the best players in the world like Tina Thompson, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes in practice every day will definitely give us a lot of insight into what we have to prepare for in the Olympics.

Do you have any safety concerns surrounding the Olympics?
TAURASI:   I'm not really concerned. I've traveled with USA Basketball in the past and things have always been taken care of and security has always been good. I don't see it as a problem once we get over there. A lot of people have questions about it, but once we get over there security will be tight and they'll take care of us.

What are some of your memories of watching the Olympics growing up?
TAURASI:   I remember the Dream Team in 1996, which kind of started the women's movement, especially in basketball. So I remember that team with Lisa Leslie and those guys, I grew up watching them play. So to be on a team with them is a dream come true. Hopefully I can help them out.

What are some of your favorite memories of playing with Diana at UConn?
CASH:   Some of my favorite memories have nothing to do with playing basketball. That's one of the great things about Diana and myself and other players I played with at Connecticut. We built so much camaraderie off the court and sharing not only championships, but friendships that will last past basketball.

With the Shock coming off the WNBA championship and trying to win another one, how do you think this will effect the season, the month off and trying to come back and win another title?
CASH:   I'm not really sure. It's going to be trial and error for the league as a whole, not only for the Shock, but for other teams with players leaving for the Olympics. But our team has a great focus right now and we have a great coach in (Bill) Laimbeer, who will have us prepared and ready to play. Once we stop, do some things in the community and in September he'll get us going again. We have players from last year who have been through a championship run and know what it takes. So I that experience last year will definitely help us out.

Where does Ruth Riley stand among the players for the final roster spot?
BROWN: Ruth is in our pool. We've had an opportunity to watch Ruth, evaluate Ruth, because she did go with us to Cuba and Europe. She's in our pool of post players and she's among those being considered.

What does Swin bring to the table?
CHANCELLOR:  We were ahead of Japan by 49, we beat them by 52 points, the ball goes up on the board and she just runs the length of the floor, grabs it and sticks it back in. I've never seen a player play harder. We didn't know if she had a position, and after she played so hard and so well, rebounding, just talks to everybody. We said, ‘forget about a position, let's get players' and we think she's a player. You've never seen anyone play harder than (Swin) and Tamika Catchings.

What was your final reaction and emotion when you learned you were picked to this team?
CASH:   When I got the phone call from Renee' (Brown), there was a lot of joy, a lot of tears. They weren't tears so much for myself, but I knew how hard my mom and my family and different people have worked to get me to this point. It wasn't about me at that point, it was about people who had prayed for me or who had helped me out along the way to get me to this point. I was really overjoyed.

Did you talk to coach Geno Auriemma and what did he have to say?
CASH:   Coach Auriemma has been on vacation for the longest period of time, I wonder when he's coming back (laughs). I haven't gotten a chance to speak with him yet, but I did talk with Chris Dailey, our assistant coach, Tonya Cardoza, Jamelle Elliott, and everyone is really excited and overjoyed. They all had encouraging words for me, but also letting me know the things I need to do to continue to improve my game.

What type of impact do you feel you can make in the WNBA to get ready fo the Olympics?
TAURASI:   I'm not going to look at the first part of the season as a practice. We're (the Phoenix Mercury) going to go in there as a team and try to win some games. Playing in the WNBA, where the talent level is deeper than any other league, will definitely help me get ready for the Olympics.

How did your previous USA Basketball experiences (2001 USA Junior World Championship Team, 2000 USA Junior World Championship Qualifying Team) help you prepare for the week that you were with the Senior National team?
TAURASI:   It helped me a lot. The great thing about USA Basketball is that after I played on the Junior World Championship Team in 2001, I came back in 2004 and it was the same group people working there. It's Carol (Callan), it's Caroline (Williams), I think the trainer (Ed Ryan) was the same too. It's like a family. You come into a situation like that and you feel really comfortable. Now I've got Sue (Bird) and Swin (Cash) with me too. So for that week I was very comfortable and felt like I was part of the team, which as a player makes you feel good.

I don't know if anybody, in your sport, has ever had a five-week run like you've had. You win your third national title, you have your tour with the USA Senior National Team and a week from now you make your pro debut. Can you just talk about that whole stretch?
TAURASI:   Like you said, the last five weeks have been crazy. You start in New Orleans with the national title and two days later I was with the (USA) National Team. I've just enjoyed it. You could look at it like, ‘I haven't had any time to rest', but I may never have this opportunity again. I'm looking at it in a positive light. All these things are here for a reason. It's been thrilling. I went through a point where I was fatigued, but I've been feeling fine, things have been going well and I've got the start of the WNBA season coming up, so I'm excited for that.

If Penny Taylor makes the Australian team, now that you guys are teammates (on the Mercury), can you comment about what that would be like?
TAURASI:   Actually the other day she got a FedEx from home and it was an Australian flag, so we went back and fourth a little bit. Penny is a great person and a tremendous player. If she was on the Australian team, I'm sure you'd have a little competition between her and me, but we won't worry about that right now, because we're on the same team. Right now, we're trying to do what is best for the Phoenix Mercury, but facing off in the Olympics would be fun.

Can you talk about what being named to the USA Senior National Team means to you and to Western Pennsylvania? And what it will be like to follow in Suzzie McConnell-Serio's (Pittsburgh, Pa. native) footsteps and play in the Olympics?
CASH:   It means a lot for Western Pennsylvania. Western Pennsylvania is definitely a hot-bed for women's basketball right now. Across the AAU level, all the way into high school and onto college. There are a lot of great players that are coming from that area. Suzie McConnell started it all off , she won medals and she played in the WNBA, and now I'm coming along, and there will be somebody after me that will come along too. But it is definitely a positive for not only Mckeesport (Pa.), but the whole Pittsburgh area.

What's the biggest adjustment you've had to make so far in the WNBA?
TAURASI:   The schedule is a lot different than the college schedule. The one thing is that it (the WNBA) is the whole day and mentally preparing for that can be kind of tough. But I'm coming from a situation at school where you're asked to do a lot, not only physically but mentally. But the schedule is probably the biggest change. Other than that, it has been a smooth transition. The team is great, we have really good chemistry and everyone is driving towards a winning attitude, which we need right now.

You've looked at several low post players, including Cheryl Ford, Ruth Riley and Natalie Williams, what is the missing factor that keeps you looking and not making an announcement yet at that position?
BROWN: The key is that all of the players that you mentioned are so good. We've got to make sure that we've got a player that has experience and rebounding ability. You look at our four current post players and not one is a bulky one. Lisa (Leslie) is our tallest, but she's thin. We're looking for someone that can bang and can rebound, but has experience. We'll be going to the Olympics playing against a lot of countries that have a lot of good post players. We're going to need one that has experience, is very athletic and one that can rebound.

So it may be somebody then that you haven't looked at yet?
BROWN: We'll, it'd have to be from within our pool of players that we have. I mentioned to you all of our players that are considered "post players", who are in our pool. We already have players that we've identified. That pool being: Cheryl Ford, Tari Phillips, Ruth Riley, Tangela Smith, Michelle Snow, Natalie Williams and Yolanda Griffith.

Do you have any safety concerns about the Games?
CASH:   I don't have any safety concerns. I feel that everyone is taking the proper steps. I feel very secure that USA Basketball has done everything possible . Sometimes you have concerns walking out of your house some days, so I wouldn't say there are any more concerns than the usual.

What about DeLisha Milton-Jones? She is coming off a torn ACL and her readiness as of August would seem somewhat questionable, given the usual recuperation period for such an injury. Can you comment on that please?
BROWN: DeLisha is practicing right now with the Los Angeles Sparks. Everything that we're getting back on her knee is that the one she tore is supposed to be stronger than her other knee. She is in practice and Michael Cooper (Los Angeles coach) has told us that he is moving forward with her. We're obviously hoping that she doesn't re-injure the knee and that she doesn't have any difficulty healing and that she'll be ready in August.

A few high-profile NBA players have pulled out of the games for various reasons. Would you be disappointed if any of your teammates pulled out because of safety? And also, do you think there is still more of a hunger with the woman's players because you all haven't "been around the block"?
CASH:  I just know that everyone is an individual and, whether it is family or personal, that would be their choice. I can't sit here and say the women don't feel like they have the luxury of backing out, because if someone needed to do that for their own reasons, I'm sure they would go ahead and do it. But after being around these women for the last month, I can say there is just such a hunger to go over there (to Athens) and win a gold medal. Everyone is excited about it and ready to go. The whole atmosphere is about winning and representing your country. As for the men, there have been other sports that have had people pull out, so I wouldn't just focus on them.

TAURASI:   Personally, I don't feel that there is a greater sporting event than the Olympics. For me to say, ‘I'm not playing in the Olympics', would be crazy, and I'd probably never do that. But like Swin said, everybody has a different decision and different circumstances for why they do what they do. As far as commenting on what the men do, I really don't know. But as far as what I do know, I know the Olympics are the biggest sports stage that there is and whenever you play for your country, that is something special.

Compare the feeling of making the Olympic team to winning the WNBA Championship.
CASH: Being with the (USA Senior) National Team, it's been amazing. I've just absorbed everything. From the people I've been around, some of the greatest players in the world, to the coaching staff, to traveling to different places like Cuba and Europe, it has just been amazing. As far as winning the WNBA championship, that was an amazing feeling because I was part of an organization that was built from the ground up. Coming from Connecticut, the mind-set every year was to win a championship. In Detroit, the mind-set was to come in and play the games and when the season was over it was over. I feel like I was really a part of building the foundation in Detroit, and that was very special.

As far as taking the phone call for the Olympics, that was totally something different. That was something that just hit me and I started to have flashbacks and dreaming about when I was younger and watching people win gold medals and knowing all the struggles that my family and friends went through to help me get to this point. It wasn't about me, when I got the call, it was about everyone that played a role or had a part in helping me get where I am today.

Where were you when you got the news?
CASH: I'd just come out of practice and I was in the locker room at the Palace.

This is a tremendous class of rookies coming into the WNBA and the only one you picked was Taurasi, can you tell us why you selected her, versus the other rookies coming in?
BROWN: Diana Taurasi and what she has done in the history of the college game speaks for itself. Like you said, I believe it is a tremendous class, but Diana had what we needed. What we needed most was her outside shooting, but we got much more than that. One thing that separates Diana from most is her winning attitude. I went to that exhibition game in Denver versus Japan, where I think she had 13 points and four rebounds (13 points, four rebounds and four assists), she probably could've had 25 points and eight assists, but she respected the veteran players there. Something I'll always remember is what Dawn Staley said to me after the game. She just grabbed me, and coming from Dawn it was so meaningful, she said, ‘You know Renee', the rookie has the goods,' and she truly does. I think she is going to help our team. I think she is a humble player, I think she is a hungry player, and it is great to hear her say that the Olympics are the highest stage that any athlete can want to perform on and I know without a doubt she'll do a good job.

 

 




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