USA Squads Set For Intrasquad Game With USA Basketball Women’s National Team Showcase
Skylar Diggins noticed the intensity picking up.
With the reality setting in that roster decisions toward the 2014 USA Basketball Women's World Championship Team loom, the 24-year-old Tulsa Shock guard said it got competitive during a tune-up scrimmage on Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy.
But this was only the first part of what will go a long way in determining the first round of cuts USA National Team coach Geno Auriemma and the selection committee will have to make.
On Thursday at 7 p.m., 17 of the 2014 USA Basketball Women's National Team members in the running for a spot on the USA World Championship Team will partake in an intrasquad game at the University of Delaware, which will be televised by ESPN2 at 7 p.m.
Diggins believes it should be a good showcase for those wanting to prove they belong in Istanbul for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.
“Not only are we just competitive anyway and want to win, we want to make the team,” Diggins said. “It’s going to be some of the best in the world going against each other and it’s about wanting to win.”
Following Wednesday’s practice, Auriemma detailed a timeline he’s hoping to adhere to when the committee makes the final cuts. Undoubtedly, some decisions will be made after Thursday’s intrasquad game, he said. More will come after a practice and scrimmage with Canada in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Sept. 15.
Auriemma said he’s hopeful to have his 12-man roster once the USA National Team is set to head to Prague for an exhibition game against the Czech Republic onSept. 23.
“That’s not to say we might not have 13 or 14 players if need be in Prague,” Auriemma said. “The roster doesn’t have to be in until a couple of days before the tourney starts. I think it’s all going to go according to how healthy everyone is and how everything transpires in between now and then.”
In the meantime, the primary focus for the players is set on Thursday’s intrasquad game. The 17 players available have been broken into two teams — the Red Team and the White Team.
The Red Team consists of Stefanie Dolson, Jantel Lavender, Kayla McBride, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore, Chiney Ogwumike, Danielle Robinson, Odyssey Sims and Lindsay Whalen.
The White Team is made up of Seimone Augustus, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Diggins, Bria Hartley, Briann January, Nnemkadi Ogwumike and Breanna Stewart.
The two groups squared off for two quarters of action during practice, with Dolson pleasantly surprised at where the Red Team is following the run-through.
“It was actually a quicker transition than I thought it would be to get those kinks out,” Dolson said. “I think our team went and ran a lot of offense really well. Our defense was great. That helped us get some points. Going into tomorrow’s game, our team is pretty confident because we played pretty well today together.”
Diggins was also complimentary of her group, commending how fast her squad came together during the scrimmage.
“We’re getting to learn each other but it’s not hard playing with good players,” Diggins said. “They have a high basketball IQ. We’re all here for a reason. I think we shook some jitters out in the beginning. But it’s good to have the rough draft, if you will, out here, knowing we have to get ready for [Thursday].”
Auriemma will be looking at how his players respond on a bigger stage. It’s one thing to perform one way or the other when no one’s looking. But what matters most, he said, is the kind of basketball displayed when everyone’s eyes are watching.
“Some players are not very good in practice, they’re not good at running drills,” Auriemma said. “But when the game starts, the lights come on and they get in front of a crowd, they’re really good. We’ve seen who can do what in practice and tomorrow we’ll see how they do in front of a crowd while keeping score. I told them earlier, I’m going to put them in position to be successful. I want everyone to look their best so they can feel they have a great opportunity to show what they can do, win or lose.”
Dolson, a 2014 Connecticut graduate, said she’s not concerned with the selection committee’s upcoming decisions. After a second consecutive championship season at Connecticut followed by her rookie campaign with the Washington Mystics, all Dolson is allowing herself to do is continue to play basketball at her highest ability.
“Knowing there are decisions with the committee and the coach, we don’t have a lot of control over that,” Dolson said. “We just have to go out and play our game and prove to them why you deserve to be on the team. And then they’ll make the decision. We’re all just going out and playing basketball.”