USA Women's National Team Notebook: July 28
BENCH WORK – Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) calls it the team’s greatest strength. It always has been in her mind.
There are 12 players on the USA Basketball National Team roster. Each player can hurt an opponent at any time, and that was clearly evident in Wednesday’s 84-62 win over France.
Led by nine points from Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), the bench produced a combined 29 points and was a plus-40 in efficiency. The group also delivered 18 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
“We don’t get the time to prepare,” Taurasi said. “We don’t get to practice for three weeks straight. We don’t get to go play these exhibition games, except for these (this week), and our greatest strength is always our numbers. We’re going to start with five, and you’re going to put your next five in, and we’re going to put our next five in, and that’s going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of teams.”
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx), a 6-foot-6 center, had arguably the biggest impact off the bench for the U.S. against France. Leading 51-44 in the third quarter, her three-point play triggered a 12-2 run over the final 3:29.
Fowles delivered seven points (3-of-3 FG), two rebounds, one assist and one steal during this stretch.
“There’s nobody that can handle Sylvia. Not just size-wise and height, but just how strong she is. And when she imposes herself in the lane at both ends – offensively, defensively – and she gets out on the perimeter and guards, she does great things that most people can’t handle,” USA National Team coach Geno Auriemma (Connecticut) said. “And the only time she gets herself in trouble is when she starts to maybe float out there. But when she’s in her moment, like she was (Wednesday), where she was really focused on getting to certain spots in the floor, and then she finished, that’s a big, big factor. She finished.”
Said Fowles: “I’m still learning as we go, making sure I need to do what the team needs, and I’m going from there. From one through 12, there can’t be any drop-off between us, and we just have to come out there and bring it every day.”
FAMILY AFFAIR – Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) was hoping to follow the path set by her father, Raymond, when she was younger. Raymond was a Marine who fought in the Vietnam War.
Brittney’s goal was to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces directly out of Nimitz High School in Texas. But that was before opportunities presented themselves in the sport of basketball. She then shifted her goals, instead enrolling at Baylor, where she became a two-time National Player of the Year and a national champion.
The opportunities have continued to present themselves for Griner. She is currently a member of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team and poised to compete in her first Olympic Games.
“Just to put on the USA jersey and play for my country means everything,” Griner said. “I say this all the time … My dad being in Vietnam and the Marines. So for him to fight for our country, and then I wanted to do the same. I wanted to enlist, actually, growing up before basketball came into play. And then when it did that kind of got pushed back, because I went to college and played basketball, and now I’m here and now I’m able to play or my country. So, it means a lot to me and my dad as well.”
MORNING SPOTLIGHT – The USA Women’s National Team will appear on ABC’s Good Morning America Friday during the 8 a.m. (EDT) segment. The appearance will be hosted by Robin Roberts.
Auriemma and three-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) and Taurasi are scheduled to speak during the appearance.
“I don’t think we do as good a job as we could of letting everybody know about the incredible success that this program has had over the last 20 years,” Auriemma said. “And every chance that we get to tell that story and every chance we get to introduce the rest of the country to who these players are I think it’s good for us."