2006 USA Basketball Women's World Championship Team Core Group Includes Eight Olympic Gold Medalists
Continuing on its past success of building gold medal winning teams around a core group of internationally experienced players, USA Basketball, which has claimed gold at the last two FIBA World Championships and past three Olympic Games, announced today that 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) have been selected as the first eight members of the 2006 USA Women's World Championship Team. The selections were made by the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee and approved by the USA Basketball Executive Committee.
"USA Basketball's senior women's program has a proud history of success in international competition, including five consecutive gold medals over the past ten years," said USA Basketball President Val Ackerman. "The 2006 World Championship player roster once again represents an impressive blend of youth and veteran leadership, and with coach Donovan at the helm, we are in an outstanding position to continue our unparalled run and solidify the domination of American women in the sport of basketball,"
"These eight players have contributed to the success of the USA Basketball women's program over the past two decades," said Committee chair and WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations Renee' Brown. "You not only have three- and two-time Olympians, but you have some talented young players who are hungry to compete alongside our veterans and help continue to build upon USA Basketball's past successes. Not only have all of them have competed together in international competitions, but the Committee also knows that they all have a respect for each other's games and they are willing to collectively come together to compete and win for the USA."
"This is a tremendous group of core players, with extensive experience in bringing home the gold," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "With this group, I know we are assured of going to battle in the World Championship with our best and most proven veterans. These players understand the drive, preparation and commitment that we need to stay on top. I am confident that these experienced Olympians will set the pace for yet another gold."
The Donovan-led U.S. squad will look to defend its World Championship title at the 15th FIBA World Championship, scheduled to be played September 12-23 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 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 Committee, chaired by WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations Reneé Brown, will use part of the WNBA season to evaluate players for the final four roster positions, 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.).
The eight core members possess a wealth of international experience having played in a combined 777 international games. Not only do they own 13 Olympic gold medals between them, they also have nine World Championship golds and a pair of World Championship bronze medals as Leslie and Smith were members of the 1998 USA World Championship Team; the pair teamed with Bird, Catchings, Milton-Jones and Swoopes in aiding the U.S. to gold in 2002; while Leslie and Swoopes were on the 1994 USA team that finished with the bronze medal. Further, in major international competitions, they boast a combined 35 golds, four silvers and three bronze medals. Underscoring their successful histories with the red, white and blue, USA teams with any of these eight players as a member have rolled to a striking 749-41 overall record for a 94.8 winning percentage.
Not only are the core members familiar with one another on the court, they have all been coached by Donovan in the past. Donovan, an assistant coach for the 1998 and 2002 World Championship teams that featured Leslie, Milton-Jones and Smith in 98 and all but Thompson and Taurasi in 02, was also an assistant on the sidelines in Athens where all eight core members helped lead the U.S. to gold. Additionally, Bird has played for Donovan in Seattle since the 2003 WNBA season.
Most recently, Smith featured on all three rosters during the 2006 USA Basketball Women's National Team's spring training and exhibition tour, which was headed by Donovan, assisted by Thibault in all three segments and Staley in Australia. Bird, Milton-Jones and Taurasi joined Smith on the first tour, which saw the U.S. claim a 3-0 record in Europe Mar. 2-9; the second tour of Europe, Mar. 17-27, saw Swoopes and Smith give veteran leadership as the United States again went 3-0; while on the third training segment the USA posted a 4-1 record and won the April 7-12 Australia-hosted Opals World Challenge behind the play of Smith and Thompson.
FIBA World Championship
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
Following on the heels of her senior campaign at UConn, Bird joined the 2002 World Championship core group during its spring training and subsequently made the final 12-member roster. She went on to help the U.S. win the Australia-hosted Opals World Challenge title prior to arriving in China for the FIBA World Championship. Playing backup to then two-time Olympian Dawn Staley and eventual 02 All-Worlds selection Shannon Johnson, Bird helped the United States defend its title with a perfect 9-0 record and the gold medal.
Bird returned to the court as a core member of the 2004 USA Basketball
Women's Senior National Team that put together a 16-0 record in pre-Olympic
preparations. She then headed to Athens, where the United States earned
the gold medal with an 8-0 record.
This is the second USA Basketball Senior National Team to list Catchings
as a member of the core group. She was a hopeful during spring training
for the 02 Worlds and her stellar play led to a nod as a member
of the 2004 USA Senior National Team core group. A proven international
winner, Catchings has averaged 9.0 ppg. and 5.3 rpg. in her USA Basketball
The three-time USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year (1993, 1998,
2002), Leslie owns an all-time 16.0 point per game scoring average in
the 201 games in which statistics are available for USA Basketball, and
has never posted less than 9.0 ppg. at a tournament. She also has produced
lifetime international numbers of 6.9 rpg., 1.4 apg., 1.2 bpg. and 1.3
spg., while shooting 56.5 from the field and 74.8 from the charity stripe.
In all, USA teams with Leslie on the roster have produced a 205-10 won-loss
A member of the gold medal winning 2000 U.S. Olympic and 1998 and 2002 USA World Championship squads, Milton-Jones has helped USA Basketball teams earn a total of six gold medals - the only color of medal she has ever known.
Involved in USA Basketball since the 94 U.S. Olympic Festival, Milton-Jones has been a member of various USA Senior National Teams, including the 1999-00 squad that compiled a 38-2 record and earned the 1999 U.S. Olympic Cup and the USA Basketball International Invitational titles prior to Sydney, the 1999 USA Senior National Team that compiled a 4-1 record during its Winter European Tour, the 1998 USA Senior National Team that rebounded to win its final two games and finish with a 2-3 record against host Australia, and in 1997 Milton-Jones helped the U.S. capture the USA Basketball Women's International Invitational title.
In all, she has posted USA Basketball averages of 6.7 ppg. and 3.9 rpg.,
while teams with Milton-Jones on the roster have produced a 98-9 overall
Most recently Smith was on hand for all 11 of the USA's 2006 spring training
exhibition games, aiding the U.S. to a 10-1 slate and the Opals World
Challenge title and now owns a 157-14 overall record as a member of a
USA Basketball team.
In 1995 Swoopes was named to the USA Pan American Games Team, however the competition was canceled by COPAN after too few teams entered. Less than three months after having faced the disappointment of not competing at the Pan American Games, Swoopes, already well known in basketball circles for helping Texas Tech to the 1993 NCAA title, made the final cut for the historical 1995-96 USA Basketball Women's National Team that posted a 52-0 record, and eventually upped that to 60-0 during the 1996 Olympic Games.
Swoopes was also a member of the1999 USA Basketball Women's Winter European Tour Team that compiled a 4-1 record, while leading the team in scoring (13.4 ppg.).
After aiding the 2006 USA Women's Senior National Team to a 3-0 slate
in its second European Tour, Swoopes now boasts averages of 12.4 ppg.
and 2.6 apg. in a USA Basketball uniform. Additionally, teams with Swoopes
on the roster have rolled up an impressive 129-2 slate.
Before her senior team debut in 04, Taurasi in 2001 was a member of the USA Junior World Championship Team that posted a 6-1 record and earned the bronze medal. After leading the United States in scoring, averaging 19.3 ppg., and passing off for a team high 2.7 apg., she was selected to the five-member 2001 All-FIBA Junior World Championship Team. Her efforts also earned Taurasi USA Basketball's Female Athlete of the Month honors for July 2001. Prior to the Junior Worlds, Taurasi averaged 13.8 ppg. and 4.0 apg. in helping the U.S. women capture the USA Basketball International Invitational with a 4-0 record against Brazil, China and Japan. Taurasi got her international start as a member of the 2000 USA Basketball Women's Junior World Championship Qualifying Team that recorded a 5-0 record, earned the gold medal and received a berth in the 2001 Junior Worlds.
More recently, Taurasi joined in on the 2006 USA spring training for the first European Tour and in aiding the United States to a 3-0 mark averaged 6.7 ppg. and 3.3 apg.
In all, she has averaged 11.5 ppg. and 2.8 apg. as USA Basketball teams
have secured a 32-1 mark with Taurasi on the squad.
A 2000 U.S. Women's Olympic Team alternate, Thompson was selected to compete in the 1998 World Championship, but injured her knee during the USA's pre-World Championship training and was forced to withdraw. Prior to being injured, Thompson had helped the U.S. squad to a 6-1 pre-World Championship record. Four years later she was selected for the 2002 USA World Championship Team, but again was sidelined by injury.
Stepping onto the court in a USA Basketball uniform for the first time in five years, Thompson did not miss a beat and aided the 04 USA National Team to a 16-0 record while preparing for the USA's 8-0 gold medal run in Greece.
A member of four USA Senior National teams since 1997, Thompson participated in the USA Senior National Team's 1999 spring training camp after competing on the 1999 USA Winter European Tour Team, which saw the U.S. claim a 4-1 record. In September 1998, Thompson traveled to Australia with a USA squad that rebounded to win its final two of five games against Australia; and in helping the United States notch top honors at the 1997 USA Basketball Women's International Invitational Tournament, she was named to the all-tournament team.
Thompson first donned the red, white and blue in 1994 as a member of the 1994 USA Select Team that toured Israel and France and finished with a 3-1 record. She followed that up with a silver medal performance at the 1995 World University Games and collected a gold medal with the 1996 USA R. William Jones Cup Team.
In all, teams with Thompson on the roster have amassed a 59-8 record, while Thompson has averaged 11.5 ppg. and 5.7 rpg. throughout her USA Basketball career and since rejoining the USA in 2004, her numbers have risen to 15.3 ppg. and 6.0 rpg. to go with a 28-1 record.