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Geno Auriemma

Quote Board >> USA Basketball Women’s National Team Tips-Off Training

  • Date:
    Sep 8, 2014

Annapolis, Maryland

Seventeen members of the 2014-16 USA Basketball Women’s National Team, including six Olympic gold medalists, began training camp on Sept. 8 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, to prepare for the 2014 FIBA World Championship. With a total of 24 athletes currently in the mix for 12 spots (seven are still in the hunt for a WNBA title), competition was fierce from the first tip of the ball. Here's what some of the athletes and coaches had to say about getting training camp underway. 

USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)

On the familiarity he has with this group of players:

That’s one of the real plusses; that we have some new players that have not played. We have some that have won multiple gold medals. Our training camp that we had last October in Las Vegas really, really helped. It made everybody a little more familiar with each other. They know what to expect from me, I know what to expect from them. They change every year, just as you would expect. There’s a real comfort level that I have, certainly with the returning players. The fact that I’ve coached against every one of these players at some point in their careers in college, I feel like I know, I don’t think there’s one player who’s here that at some point, we didn’t have to play against them in the NCAA Tournament or some big game somewhere, multiple times. For me it’s kind of fun to see them from a different perspective and for them to see me from a different perspective.

On the challenge to whittle down to 12 players:

It’s not going to be easy, because we have 17 here. In the pool we have seven that are (still) playing. So, even if you cut five players off of this roster and you’re at 12, next week you’re back to 19. It’s not going to be easy. Getting to this number wasn’t as easy as it’s been in the past. In the past it might have been very simple trying to find out who the 12 best players in the country are. Everybody knew who they were. Boom, let’s do it. Fifteen at the max. Now, you get to 20 and you still go, ‘well, what about this guy? What about that guy?’ So, we’re in an enviable situation as far as that’s concerned that we have many more choices than we used to eight years ago.

Does that make things more competitive?

A lot of times, what’s happened in the past is the team is kind of set. So people will come to a tryout and go ‘is it really a tryout? Because it looks to me like everybody knows who’s going to be on the team.’ Well, for one of the few times, now we’ve got four players that were on the Olympic team that are not available to us. Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker. That’s four players. That’s four spots that if every other Olympian decides to play, and is good enough to play … there’s this assumption that, well you were on the Olympic team in 2012 in London. So you’re automatically on the (USA) World Championship Team. That wouldn’t be fair to the guys trying out. We talked about the guys who were on the Olympic team in 2012, they have to play themselves off the team. So if they don’t do what we ask them to do or if they’re not as good as we expect them to be and some younger guy comes up, you know what? That’s just the way it’s going to be. But the other guys have to play their way on the team. They’re not getting any breaks. They’re not getting any benefit of the doubt. The older guys, they get a little benefit of the doubt, as it should be. It makes these younger guys hungry, but they know there’s a minimum of four spots available. Minimum. There could be more.

There are also some really good young players who were not on the Olympic team, like Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins, who are all really good:

Oh yeah. Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, Kayla McBride, Breanna Stewart, Odyssey Sims, you take a lot of these young guys, Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, who were All-Americans last year, you get guys who were really, really good players, Chiney Ogwumike was the Rookie of the Year in the WNBA, you get these guys and you go, ‘well yeah, you gotta make room for those guys.’ I say ‘okay, why don’t you be in charge of taking guys off?’

It’s easy to say you gotta get this guy on the team, right? Yeah, sure. Tell me who you’re going to take off and you go tell them. Say ‘look, by the way, you’re not on the team anymore.’ It’s not going to be easy.

USA Assistant Coach Dawn Staley, (University of South Carolina)

Is it difficult to be away from your own team (South Carolina) during the USA Basketball training?

I mean, it is a little different. Everybody knows what is expected from the player standpoint, our staff has been together for a long time, six years, so it feels a little bit better leaving for a month knowing that we won’t skip a beat.

On coaching the USA U18 team this summer.

That was fun, that was fun, getting to know them, having a team full of 17 to 18 year olds. Usually on your college team you get one or two, maybe three but a team full of them, it was fun, it actually was fun just kind of teaching them how to mentally prepare for practices, not just games, but practices when they are exhausted.

Did you try to look back to your youth to see what was different when you were coming up through the system?

Back then when I was young, you know, anytime I was able to play it wasn’t a big play on my mentals as much as I saw it play on these youngsters.  They have so much stuff pulling at them, when for us it was just basketball. We had no cell phones, we had no games, no twitter, nothing that would pull on us from a mental standpoint - we just wanted to play, we just wanted to compete.

Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx)

On Day 1 practice:

I mean it is Day 1. For me it seems like a lot of the Day 1s that we had in training camp, at USA training camp where the energy is high, balls are flying around, you know at some point in practice everybody kind of settled down and started playing their game and you started to see people kind of start to separate themselves from the rest of the group. I think Odyssey Sims had a great day today, Stefanie Dolson had a great day today, of course Maya (Moore), I don’t think I need to say all the vets that have been around but as far as the young players those two kind of stood out today.

On coming to USA Basketball camp right from the WNBA Playoffs:

I mean, like coach said, it is like a mental grind. Physically your body is going to be tired, we just finished playing but if mentally can stay strong we can push through almost anything. That’s what we’re kind of taught as athletes, never to show weakness, so we’ll get through it. But it is kind of refreshing to kind of get here and start up again instead of having to sit at home and kind of sulk about how the season ended and things like that. It actually panned out pretty well where we got a few days off and now we’re here and refreshing our mind getting ready for a new challenge and a new goal.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)

What would it mean to you if you were selected to this USA Basketball Team, your fourth USA World Champioship Team?

That would be amazing, you know, it would be an honor, and it would be very special. I don’t take anything for granted. You kind of just learn that as you go, not to take any moment for granted.  I just want to have fun with it. Obviously, I am the oldest player here now and I think by nature, my position, the good this I have always had to be a leader, so to be the oldest now and kind of continue with that leadership role, it hasn’t really changed much so I don’t feel old if that makes sense. I’m just doing what I’ve always done.

Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock)

What’s it like being back out with USA Basketball?

It’s great. When I got the word that I was going to have this opportunity to come and try out for the team, it’s always an honor. So many great players come out here and fight for a spot. It’s so competitive. There’s so much basketball knowledge, with the coaches and the committee, it’s just a great experience all around. Any time you have the opportunity to represent your country, you come and you take it. Being here at the U.S. Naval Academy, it brings patriotism to another level. It makes you appreciate the people who surround you and who fight for this country. This whole experience is amazing.

How tough is it going to be for anyone to make this team?

It’s tough. It’s a tough group of women. Geno even said it last night that we have more and more players who can play at this level every year. You pick any of these girls and it would be well deserved, you’d go over there and do well. So, while you’re here, you just play ball. You just be yourself, find out what you do well and stick to it. It’s not necessarily the 12 best that played, they’re trying to pick a team. That doesn’t mean you’re not good. You’re invited here to be among the most elite in the world and in my opinion it’s the best of the best. So, you just have to play your game and just show up every day and sweat.

Kayla McBride (San Antonio Stars)

On Day 1 of practice:

Being one of the youngest here it is kind of hard just to play the first day, because there’s a lot of thinking and you don’t’ want to mess up - and then you end up messing up. But I think by the end of practice everyone kind of settled in and I’m just excited for Day 2

On players finding their role on the team:

I feel like it is about the little things at USA. Everybody is the best at what they do on whatever team they are on so it is finding the little things that you can do. Running the court really really hard, setting a great screen, flashing hard, getting somebody else open, that’s what USA is about. Because at the end of the day scorers are going to be scorers - but - Who is going to play defense?  Who is going to rebound?  Who is going to run the floor hard? So I am just trying to do those little things and find my role in that way that way, because the scoring is going to come just because we are so great and we can do everything. So, it is just doing those little things and trying to make the coaches happy.

Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)

How did you assess the first day? How did practice go?

I thought it was a good day. You know, we had a lot of teaching and a lot of just foundational things that the coaches wanted to put in and I thought we all picked it up pretty well. The energy was solid and just working out some of the rust from either coming off of a season or being off for a few weeks but I think we built a pretty good foundation today.

How was the chemistry today?

I think we’re all such good athletes and have such good instincts that we pick things up very quickly so we were working really well together and most of us have played with each other at some point anyway so it is really fun to be back together.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)

What was your first practice like?

It was really good today. Everybody’s on board. Everybody’s here ready to seize the opportunity. Everyone’s grateful to be here. We’re working hard to play together as a team and it’s all going to be a great process for everybody.

On the loss of Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker:

It’s always unfortunate when people can’t come for whatever reason, but I think everyone here is excited just to be given an opportunity to be here to play and everyone wants to stay here as long as they can. No matter who we pick here, we’ll have a great squad. Everyone’s ready to put out whatever they have and seize the moment. Carpe diem, as Chiney (Ogwumike) likes to say. 

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