2006 USA World Championship Team Nearly Complete With Addition Of Augustus, Beard, Griffith
   



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August 1, 2006 • Colorado Springs, Colorado

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Teleconference Audio

The Team Just Got a Little Stronger
The additions of newcomers Seimone Augustus (L-R) and Alana Beard, as well as international veteran Yolanda Griffith fortifies the USA roster even further.

Three USA Basketball veterans, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith (Sacramento Monarchs), as well as 2003 FIBA U21 World Championship gold medalists Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) and Alana Beard (Washington Mystics), have been named to the 2006 USA Basketball Women's World Championship Team. The 15th FIBA World Championship is scheduled to be played Sept. 12-23 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The selections were made by the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee.

"The Committee believes that each player brings special skills to the team," said USA Women's Senior National Team Committee chair Reneé Brown, the WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations. "Yolanda has a tremendous amount of experience and is a proven success at the international level. Alana is a defensive specialist, who also has the ability to score, and Seimone plays at both ends of the court, has a great sense of the game and competes at the highest level. These three athletes will unquestionably enhance our already talented roster as USA Basketball embarks on its quest to defend the gold medal and extend the gold medal streak that began with the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team."

"I am very happy with these three athletes," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "First of all, Yolanda brings so much experience and presence to this team, so much gold medal experience with Lisa in the post. Her addition gives me more comfort with how strong our post game will continue to be. And Alana and Seimone, two fantastic young players who traveled with us during the spring training showed how tremendously talented they are and how they blend with our veteran players. Seimone and Alana bring great perimeter defense, as well as Seimone being very capable of scoring and Alana being able to give us what we need, whether it's running the point or running the off-guard spot. They give us even more offense and much more depth defensively. Yolanda, her rebounding, she can rebound like nobody else can in the game at every level, so that automatically will help our post game.

The United States is looking at the 2006 FIBA World Championship to continue building upon the success it's experienced over the last decade in the international arena. Since the 1996 Olympic Games the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team has posted five consecutive gold medals at the Olympics and FIBA World Championships. Not only have the American women finished on the top of the podium, they have posted an unblemished 42-0 record, an unparalleled streak over the past decade among U.S. women's traditional team sports. Additionally, the United States is No. 1 in the world in every age group after also claiming gold at the 2005 FIBA U19 World Championship and 2003 FIBA U21 World Championship.

The three talented additions brings the USA roster to 11, with one more slot left to be announced later this summer. In addition to Augustus, Beard and Griffith, previously named to the ‘06 USA team were three-time Olympic gold medalists Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) and Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), two-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith (Detroit Shock), 2000 Olympic gold medalist DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics), and 2004 Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets).

The Donovan-led U.S. squad will seek to defend its World Championship title at the 15th FIBA World Championship, scheduled to be played in Sao Paulo. Behind the play of 2002 FIBA World Championship MVP Leslie, as well as Bird, Catchings, Milton-Jones, Smith and Swoopes, the United States captured the ‘02 gold medal, successfully defending it's 1998 World Championship crown.

The U.S. owns a record seven gold medals, one silver and one bronze at the World Championship, while compiling an 80-20 (.800 winning percentage) record, including a 19-0 winning streak that dates back to the 1994 bronze medal game.

The USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee is continuing to evaluate players for the final roster position which will be announced later this summer.

Donovan will be assisted on the sidelines by Connecticut Sun head coach Mike Thibault and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Duke University (N.C.) and Dawn Staley of Temple University (Pa.).

Seimone Augustus
Selected No. 1 in the 2006 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx, Augustus joined the 2006 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team the day after her Louisiana State University squad fell in the 2006 NCAA Final Four semifinal in Boston. Following the Draft, Augustus rejoined the team in Canberra, Australia, for the final three games of the 2006 Opals World Challenge, won by the U.S., and averaged a USA sixth-best 8.3 ppg., while contributing 3.7 rpg. and shooting 57.1 percent (12-21 FGs) in her first senior-level competition.

The 2003 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, Augustus has helped a pair of U.S. squads capture golds in international competitions. A member of the 2005 USA World University Games Team that earned the gold medal with a perfect 7-0 record in Izmir, Turkey, Augustus finished the 20-team tournament ranked eighth among all participants for scoring (14.2 ppg.) and third for field goal percentage (.615).

In her first foray into the international arena, and after trying out for and not making the 2002 USA team, Augustus led the U.S. to the 2003 FIBA U21 World Championship gold medal in Sibenik, Croatia, and was named tournament MVP in the process. Starting all eight games and averaging a team best 10.6 ppg., Augustus was credited for a team second best 19 steals, while grabbing 3.8 rpg. Additionally, Augustus scored 18 points in the gold medal game against Brazil en route to her MVP and FIBA U21 World Championship All-Tournament Team honors.

Earning the WNBA Player of the Week award in just the second week of her rookie campaign, Augustus quickly made a name for herself in the league. She is currently the WNBA's second leading scorer (22.5 ppg. / all stats as of games played through 7/31/06) and ranks 18th for field goal percentage (.466).

In her four years (2003-06) at LSU, Augustus helped lead the Lady Tigers to a 121-19 (.864) record, the 2003 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament championship, 2005 and 2006 SEC regular season titles, and LSU advanced to the 2003 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight and 2004, 2005 and 2006 NCAA Final Fours. She was tabbed the consensus National Player of the Year as a junior and senior, collecting the Wade Trophy, the Naismith Award, the John R. Wooden Award and the Associated Press National Player of the Year honors.

Alana Beard
Beard was one of only two players, USA teammate Smith was the other, who competed in all 11 of the 2006 USA Basketball Senior National Team's spring training contests and aided the U.S. to a 10-1 slate, including 4-1 at the Australia-hosted Opals World Challenge where the U.S. claimed first prize. During the USA's European and Australian games, Beard started eight of 11 games and averaged 6.6 ppg., 3.7 rpg. 2.3 apg. and 2.3 spg.

While the spring of 2006 marked her first taste of international basketball against senior teams, she was previously a member of three USA Basketball squads, winning gold at the 2003 FIBA U21 World Championship and 2000 FIBA Americas U18 Championship tournaments and bronze at the 2001 FIBA U19 World Championship. Not only did Beard help the U.S. to the medal stand at these events, she was named to the 2003 All-FIBA U21 World Championship and 2001 All-FIBA U19 World Championship five-member teams.

As a teammate of Augustus' at the 2003 U21 Worlds, Beard averaged a team second best 9.3 ppg. and snagged a team high 23 steals. Prior to the event, she helped the U.S. to a 4-0 record in exhibition play against Australia and Brazil's young women's squads, while averaging 15.3 ppg.

In 2001 Beard was on the USA U19 National Team that posted a 6-1 record and earned the bronze medal at the U19 Worlds. She ranked second on the squad in scoring (18.0 ppg.) and led the team in assists (20) and steals (23). She also aided the U.S. to a 4-0 record and the 2001 USA Basketball International Invitational against junior national teams from Brazil, China and Japan prior to the Junior Worlds, averaging 18.8 ppg. in the process.

Beard first donned a USA Basketball jersey as a member of the 2000 USA Junior World Championship Qualifying Team that captured the gold medal with a 5-0 record in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and led the U.S. in scoring (15.4 ppg.) and steals (19).

Drafted No. 2 overall by the Washington Mystics in 2004, Beard is a two-time WNBA All-Star (2005, 2006), and earned 2005 WNBA All-Defensive second team honors. She is currently averaging a league sixth-best 18.0 ppg., and ranks eighth for steals (1.7 spg.), 14th for field goal percentage (.492) and 15th for blocks per game (0.8 bpg.). As a rookie, Beard helped Washington to a 17-17 record and the first round of the playoffs.

Beard has further honed her skills in the WNBA off-season by playing professionally in Australia and Korea.

During her four years (2001-04) as a collegian, Duke University (N.C.) compiled a 126-14 (.900) record, won four Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) regular season and four ACC Tournament titles, advanced to four NCAA Tournaments, including the 2002 and 2003 Final Fours. Following her senior season, she was named the 2004 Associated Press (A.P.) and U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Player of the Year, and was the 2004 Wade Trophy recipient.

Yolanda Griffith
Griffith returns to the red, white and blue in 2006 after twice assisting the United States to Olympic gold medals.

A dominant inside factor in the USA's efforts in Sydney and Athens, Griffith was a force to be reckoned with off the bench in 2004. She helped the U.S. on its 8-0 gold medal quest by averaging a USA fourth-best 8.8 ppg. and grabbed a team second best 6.6 rpg. in just 17.2 minutes an outing. Prior to the Games, Griffith posted 10.3 ppg. and 9.3 rpg. as the Americans claimed a 3-0 exhibition slate.

She capped the USA's 8-0 Olympic gold medal run in 2000 as the team's top rebounder (8.8 rpg.) and third highest scorer (11.5 ppg.). Prior to the Olympics, as a member of the 1999-2000 USA National Team, Griffith was the squad's second leading scorer (10.4 ppg.) and third best rebounder (6.1 rpg.), while aiding the squad to a 38-2 pre-Olympic record and the 1999 U.S. Olympic Cup title.

Griffith got her USA Basketball start as a member of the 1990 U.S. Olympic Festival North Team that captured the bronze medal and finished as the Festival's second leading rebounder (8.8 rpg.). Eight years later she returned to USA Basketball as a member of the ‘98 USA Women's National Team that played five games against Australia in September 1998 and averaged 6.6 ppg. and led the U.S. on the glass with 8.8 rpg.

Selected by the Sacramento Monarchs as the No. 2 pick in the 1999 WNBA draft, Griffith made an immediate impact in the league, collecting MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and All-WNBA First Team accolades in 1999. Over the next five years the six-time WNBA All-Star (1999-2001, 2003, 2005-06) would go on to help lead Sacramento to four more playoff berths as the Monarchs advanced to the 2001, 2003 and 2004 Western Conference Finals. She also went on to be named to the 2005 All-WNBA First Team and the 2000, 2001 and 2004 All-WNBA Second Teams.

In 2005 Griffith and the Monarchs posted the league's second best record at 25-9 and finally pushed past the Conference Finals and captured the franchise's first WNBA title in four games over Connecticut. Griffith, who averaged a finals-leading 18.5 ppg. and ranked first on the Monarchs and second overall in the finals with 9.8 rpg., was awarded the WNBA Finals MVP trophy.

Currently averaging 11.3 ppg. for the 17-11 Monarchs, Griffith currently ranks 11th among league leaders for rebounds (6.5 rpg.).

In less than eight seasons in the league, Griffith has amassed a total of 3,621 points (15.1 ppg.), 2,063 rebounds (8.6 rpg.), 440 steals (1.83 spg.), 356 assists (1.5 apg.) and 289 blocked shots (1.20 bpg.). More impressive, especially for a player who entered the league in its third season, Griffith currently ranks sixth among all-time WNBA scoring leaders for total points, second for rebounds, fifth for steals and sixth for blocked shots.

Prior to playing in the WNBA, Griffith was selected by the Long Beach StingRays as the No. 1 pick of the 1997 ABL Draft and at the end of the 97-98 season was traded in the expansion draft to the Chicago Condors. A hit in the ABL, Griffith was named the 1998 ABL Defensive Player of the Year and All-ABL first team, and finished second in the ABL's 1998 Most Valuable Player voting to 2000 Olympic teammate Natalie Williams.

Griffith got her professional start in Germany, where she played from 1993-97 and finished as the top scorer and rebounder in the EuroLeague in 1997 averaging 24.7 ppg. and 16.0 rpg. Continuing to play overseas, Griffith has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2003 and this past season averaged 14.0 ppg. and 6.2 rpg. in 2006 EuroLeague action as her squad advanced to the Eight-Finals.

FIBA World Championship
The World Championship has been contested essentially every four years since 1953. The United States captured the first two gold medals before the beginning of the Soviet domination of women's basketball at the 1959 World Championship. The former USSR put together a string of five straight golds (1959, 1964, 1967, 1971, 1975), before the United States reclaimed gold in 1979. The Soviet Union in 1983 earned its final World Championship crown as the USA went on to capture four of the next five World Championships (1986, 1990, 1998, 2002). The only other nation to break into the gold medal column at this event is Brazil, which defeated the USA in the 1994 semifinals and went on to take the top spot that year.

FIBA conducted on Jan. 31 the official draw to determine the four preliminary round groupings for the 2006 FIBA World Championship, and the United States was placed in Group C along with China, Nigeria and Russia. Preliminary round games are scheduled for Sept. 12-14, and the top three teams from each of the four preliminary round groups will advance to the second round for the right to advance to the medal round quarterfinals. Placed in Group A were Argentina, host Brazil, South Korea and Spain; Group B includes Australia, Canada, Lithuania and Senegal; while Group D consists of Cuba, Czech Republic, France and Chinese Taipei.

The 15th FIBA World Championship format will feature a round-robin competition in preliminary round play. The top three teams from each preliminary group advance to form two second round groups consisting of six teams each. Each team's results against advancing teams from its preliminary group carries over to the second round standings, and each team will play the other three teams in the second round group whom they have not faced previously. The top four teams from those two groups will advance to the medal round quarterfinals. The gold and bronze medal games will be played Sept. 23.

2006 will mark Brazil's fourth time hosting the FIBA World Championship: Rio de Janeiro played host in 1957, and Sao Paulo was the site for the 1971 and 1983 Worlds. In all, the United States had mixed success when playing a World Championship in Brazil. The 1957 squad took home the gold with an 8-1 slate, in 1971 the U.S. finished in eighth place with a 6-2 record and in 1983 the USA squad again went 6-2, but returned with the silver medal.


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