2006 USA Women's Senior National Team's Spring Training A Success
The 2006 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team completed a successful spring training that saw a total of 26 athletes, including eight Olympic gold medalists, compile an overall 10-1 record against top national and professional teams, capture the 2006 Opals World Challenge title and compete in four different countries from March 1 - April 13. The three separate training tours also gave the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee a chance to evaluate an assortment of elite players who are candidates for the 12-member 2006 USA Women's World Championship Team, while also allowing USA head coach Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm) and her staff to prepare for the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
"I feel there are so many positives," said Donovan when asked to reflect on the three camps. "I think we've had some great experiences. We played against some great teams and the Opals World Challenge was a great tournament for us to finish up with.
"We've identified a lot of younger players who are good enough to get into the mix of our senior national team," continued Donovan. "I think it reminds everybody again that we've really got to get after it and train together. Australia trained for five weeks together and that paid off for them. Obviously they played very well together. For us to go through three different segments of training with virtually new teams every time, it reminds us that continuity in the program would be a valuable thing."
The USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee, chaired by Reneé Brown, the WNBA's Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, issued the invitations to the players for the three spring training camps and is charged with the selection of the 2006 USA World Championship squad, which will be named later this summer.
Following the 2006 WNBA regular season, the USA will regroup in late August for a final training camp before defending its World Championship title at the 15th FIBA World Championship, scheduled to be played Sept. 12-23 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Donovan will be assisted at the 2006 FIBA World Championship by WNBA
Connecticut Sun head coach Mike
Thibault, who served as an assistant at all three camps, and collegiate
head coaches Gail
Goestenkors of Duke University (N.C.) and Dawn
Staley of Temple University (Pa.).
European Tour #1
In its opening contest 2000 Olympic and two-time World Championship gold medalist DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics) posted 24 points and nine rebounds to lead the USA's 95-78 charge over MKB Eurleasing on March 6. Two-time Olympic and two-time World Championship gold medalist Katie Smith (Detroit Shock), one of two players to compete in all 11 of the USA's spring training games, paced the pack with 19 points as the U.S. won a hard-fought battle over Lotos Gdynia, 66-61, on March 8. Milton-Jones, who missed the USA's first game against Lotos because of the 2006 EuroLeague All-Star Game, returned on March 9 to score a team-high 15 points in the USA's 69-54 rematch over the Gdynia team.
Milton-Jones and Smith were the USA's top scorers during the first portion of training, averaging 19.5 ppg. and 17.0 ppg., respectively. Leading the way on the glass was USA senior team rookie Kara Braxton (Detroit Shock) with 8.0 rpg. to go with her 6.0 ppg., while Milton-Jones averaged a team second best 7.5 rpg. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, dished out a team-leading 3.3 apg. to go with her 6.7 ppg.
In all, the 13-member USA squad outscored its opponents 76.7 to 64.3
ppg., a difference of 12.4 ppg., while owing a +9.3 rebounding margin
of 36.3 to 27.0 rpg. The squad also shot a respectable 44.1 percent from
the field, compared to 40.4 percent by its opponents.
In the 87-66 win on March 20 over USO Mondeville Basket in Mondeville, France, 2003 USA World Championship For Young Women gold medal winner Nicole Ohlde (Minnesota Lynx) headed the effort with an 18-point, 7-rebound performance. She again paced the U.S. attack with 18 points in its next contest as the Americans ran away with a 93-67 victory over a Hungarian All-Star Team on March 22 in Györ, Hungary. In the USA's final game of its second European Tour, Michelle Snow (Houston Comets), who had a team-high 10 rebounds against the Hungarian All-Stars, notched 20 points as the U.S. downed MiZo-Pécsi 76-53 on March 24 in Pécs, Hungary.
While the youngsters led in the point column in each of the three games, three-time Olympic gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) and Smith proved to be the top scorers for the squad after averaging 13.7 ppg. apiece, while Ohlde and Snow each averaged 12.7 ppg. Snow grabbed a best of 7.3 rpg., followed by Swoopes' 5.7 rpg.
The U.S. squad, which featured just nine players on the roster, outdistanced
its opponents by 23.3 ppg. (85.3 to 62.0 ppg.) and won the battle of the
boards 36.7 rpg. to 21.5 rpg. Bolstered by Snow's 69.6 percent (16-23
FGs) accuracy, this group bested the shooting percentage from the previous
tour by connecting on 49.3 percent of its tries from the field.
First of all, due to the timing of the WNBA Draft Donovan and Thibault, as well as USA team members Seimone Augustus and Cappie Pondexter, the eventual No. 1 and No. 2 WNBA Draft picks by the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury, respectively, did not travel with the team to Australia and missed the first game in Cairns. Thus, three-time Olympian Staley not only was the acting head coach for the team's first game in Australia, she had only 10 players and no assistants to help out on the sidelines. Additionally, ESPN analyst Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs) arrived just four hours before the USA-China tip on April 7. Further, Donovan, Pondexter and Thibault arrived the afternoon of April 8, six hours before the U.S. faced Australia. However, due to flight delays, Augustus did not get to Australia until April 9 and therefore was only able to compete in the final three games. To make matters even more difficult, Sylvia Fowles (Louisiana State / Miami, Fla.) dislocated her right shoulder on April 8 and was sidelined for the remainder of the tournament. Up until her injury, which came in the third quarter, Fowles had averaged 9.0 ppg. in 13.0 minutes of play.
Despite all the drama, and the team's lone loss of spring training, the USA still came away with the Opals World Challenge title and placed two athletes on the five-member All-Opals World Challenge Team.
Opening against China in Cairns, Staley piloted the squad in her first game as a USA Basketball coach to an 85-77 victory as University of Tennessee redshirt freshman Candace Parker (Naperville, Ill.) came up with a team-best 26 points and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) powered the team on the glass with 12 boards and added 10 points. The following night, with a full coaching staff on the bench, the U.S. ran away in the fourth quarter for an 83-63 victory over rival Australia as Smith led the charge with 16 points.
The tournament moved to Canberra, where on April 10 the U.S. again bested China to a tune of 87-53 with the aid of Parker's 17 points and nine boards and Thompson's double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Facing Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) on April 11, Thompson poured in 28 points and Parker notched a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds as the U.S. earned a lopsided 91-66 victory, its 10th straight spring training win.
In the final game, after leading by four points at halftime the USA went cold in the third quarter and Australia took the lead and went on to capture the game 76-65 on April 12. Parker and Thompson each posted double-doubles in the loss, combining for 46 points and 21 rebounds, and were named all-tournament. Because the U.S. claimed a 20-point victory over Australia earlier in the tournament, and with both teams holding identical 4-1 slates, the United States came away with the title. China (2-3) placed third and Chinese Taipei (0-5) finished in fourth.
The American women placed their names among the top five in nearly every major statistical category among the four-team field. Parker (18.0 ppg.) and Thompson (17.0 ppg.) were second and third, respectively, for scoring; while in rebounding Thompson (8.6 rpg.) took the top spot and Parker (8.4 rpg.) was second. Parker shot 69.0 percent (40-58 FGs) from the floor to lead everyone in field goal percentage, with Augustus ranked fourth at 57.1 percent (12-21 Fgs); 2004 Olympian Swin Cash (Detroit Shock) passed off for 2.4 apg. to rank tied for second in assists, while Alana Beard (Washington Mystics), the only other player to compete in all three camps, and Lawson tied for fourth in assists after averaging 2.2 apg.; Parker led the field in blocked shots (1.4 bpg.); Beard (1.8 spg.) and Augustus (1.67 spg.) went 3-4 in steals; and Smith tied for fourth with one 3-point field goal made per game.
The United States closed the tournament with a +15.2 ppg. scoring margin (82.2 ppg. to 67.0 ppg.), again won the battle on the glass, 48.2 rpg. to 32.0 rpg., and also scorched the nets for a 48.7 shooting percentage.