Tough Decisions Loom In the USA Women’s World Championship Team Selection Process
Geno Auriemma hasn’t seen this much talent present on one roster before.
As the head coach of the 2014 USA Basketball Women's National Team, which includes 24 athletes in the running for a spot on the 2014 USA Basketball Women's World Championship Team, he admitted that previous decisions to cut down the roster have come a tad easier.
This time around, Auriemma believes the process of trimming down to 12 players is going to be a lot tougher given the talent he has at his fingertips.
“In the past it might have been very simple trying to find out who the 12 best players in the country are,” Auriemma said. “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.”
Auriemma, who has a say in the selection process, but it's the USA Women's National Team Committee that makes the tough decisions, served as the USA National Team’s head coach from 2009-2012 but has served six coaching assignments with the group since 2000. He was selected again to be the 2013-2016 USA Basketball Women's National Team head coach last year.
The USA National Team opened training camp on Monday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in preparation for the 2014 FIBA World Championship. Seventeen players were present, with another seven vying for spots playing in the WNBA finals between the Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky.
Among those present Monday were Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock) and Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx).
Diggins, drafted third overall in the 2013 WNBA draft, said the talent level is apparent after the first day of training camp.
“So many great players come out here and fight for a spot. It’s so competitive,” Diggins said. “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.”
Unable to participate at this time due to the championship bout are the Mercury’s DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree, Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, and the Sky’s Elena Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles and Courtney Vandersloot.
Fowles and Taurasi are previous Olympic gold medalists, with those two and Dupree earning a gold medal in the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
"Even if you cut five players off of this roster and you’re at 12, next week you’re back to 19,” Auriemma said. “It’s not going to be easy."
Bird has long been a staple of the U.S. team and would serve as a veteran presence if selected to this year’s group. She’s won three gold medals at the Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012) and has played an integral role since 2002, the same year she was taken first overall by the Storm in the WNBA draft.
But Bird seems aware that there plenty of spots up for grabs after being asked what it would mean to once again make a USA World Championship Team.
“I don’t take anything for granted. You kind of just learn that as you go, not to take any moment for granted,” Bird said. “I just want to have fun with it.”