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Four Collegiate Coaches Selected To Serve As Court Coaches At 2017 USA National Team Training Camp

  • Date:
    Aug 25, 2017

Four respected collegiate head coaches – Michelle Clark-Heard (Western Kentucky), Jennifer Rizzotti (George Washington), Sue Semrau (Florida State) and Jeff Walz (Louisville) – have been selected to serve as court coaches to USA Basketball Women’s National Team head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina) and the USA National Team during its fall training camp. The court coaches were selected by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Steering Committee.

The camp, scheduled to be held Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 in Santa Barbara, California, will be utilized to help identify athletes for future USA National Team events, including the 2018 USA World Cup Team, and will mark the USA’s first training camp under Staley’s tenure as head coach.   

Approximately 30 athletes are expected to attend the camp, and the list of participants will be announced at a later date. Athletes competing in the WNBA Finals will not be available to participate.

The USA will tip-off training at 10 a.m. (PDT) daily, with sessions held at Westmont College on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. On Oct. 2, the USA National Team’s practice will be held at the University of California, Santa Barbara Recreation Center’s Robertson Gymnasium.

“These four coaches bring a wealth of talent,” said Staley, who has served as an assistant coach for a pair of U.S. Olympic and USA World Cup teams. “I’ve worked with Jeff with the U18s and U19s, and Jen and I worked together in Rio. I haven’t really worked with Michelle or Sue, but they both have been extremely successful at their programs and nothing makes me think they’re not going to be successful in helping me out in training camp.

 “The coaches are energized, and it should make for a great opportunity for all of us to build some chemistry. The biggest thing is that you want to build chemistry because you don’t have a whole lot of time, you have these pockets of time, three or four days, that have to go a long way in being able to mesh out there on the floor.

“I’m excited about this training camp,” Staley continued. “It’s been a long time since being named the coach to getting to an actual training camp. You watch WNBA games, you watch some of the one, two, three-time Olympians and see how they operate, and then you go out to the U23 training camp and see some of the bright, young rising stars of our game, and you get excited. You get excited about the possibility of doing things in a variety of ways.”

The 2017 USA National Team training camp marks Clark-Heard’s third USA Basketball coaching assignment. Previously, she helped USA Basketball to a silver medal as an assistant coach for the 2015 U.S. Pan American Games Women’s Basketball Team, and recently returned from Japan where she was an assistant coach for the USA U23 National Team that captured the inaugural U24 Four-Nations Tournament title after going 3-0 against Australia, Canada and Japan in Tokyo.

“I’m really honored and humbled to have the opportunity to be with USA Basketball again” said Clark-Heard, who recently completed her fifth season (2012-13 to present) as head coach at her alma mater Western Kentucky, where she has compiled a 130-39 record (.769 winning percentage). “To be with coach Staley and to be a court coach with the USA National Team is amazing. I just want to keep growing and learning every day. I’m excited to be around everyone who was appointed to be a court coach and coach Staley and everything she’s doing. This is just a blessing.”

Rizzotti completed her first season at George Washington in 2016-17 with a 20-10 record, including 13-3 in the Atlantic 10 Conference for a share of the A-10 regular season title.

A member of five USA Basketball coaching staffs, Rizzotti was an advance scout/court coach for the gold-medal winning 2016 U.S. Olympic Team and 2014 USA World Cup Team, and she also served as court coach during USA National Team training camps from 2014-16. She began coaching with USA Basketball as an assistant for the 2006 USA U18 National Team that claimed gold, and as a head coach led the 2010 USA U18 National Team and 2011 USA U19 World Cup Team to gold medals. As an athlete, Rizzotti was a member of the 1996 USA R. William Jones Cup that earned the gold medal with a 9-0 slate.

“I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to continue coaching with USA Basketball” said Rizzotti. “I’ve had the good fortune of watching Dawn Staley through her playing and coaching career, and I couldn’t be more excited for the next group of USA National Team players who have the chance to have her be their coach. I look forward to imparting my knowledge and experience from my last stint with the Olympic team, and I really look forward to seeing the next crop of young players coming up through the national team pool.”

A two-time USA Basketball assistant coach, this will mark the third USA coaching assignment for Semrau. She previously aided the 2010 USA U18 National Team and 2011 USA U19 World Championship Team, both of which captured gold medals.

“It’s always an honor to work with USA Basketball,” said Semrau, who owns a career record of 401-233 (.632 winning percentage) in her 20 seasons (1997-98 to present) as head coach at FSU. “I’m looking forward to working with head coach Dawn Staley at the first training camp in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games.”

The head coach at the University of Louisville since 2007-08, this will be the fourth USA Basketball coaching assignment for Walz, who recently served as head coach to the gold medalist 2017 USA U23 National Team. Previously, he was an assistant coach for the gold-medal winning 2014 USA U18 National Team and the 2015 USA U19 World Championship Team.

“It’s quite an honor” said Walz, who in 2016-17 completed his 10th season (2007-08 to present) as the Louisville head coach, where he owns a 263-93 (.739) record. “In this profession, you sit there when you’re younger, and you watch the Olympic teams and the national teams compete. And then to be fortunate to have Angel (McCoughtry) be a part of it, you ask her: ‘What’s it like? What’s training camp like?’ And then all of a sudden to get asked to come out and be a court coach, it’s humbling, it’s exciting, it’s nerve-wracking all at the same time. You’re going out there to work with the best in the world. So, I’m very honored and excited.”

The USA Basketball Women’s National Team will compete in the 2018 FIBA World Cup (Sept. 22-30 in Spain) and, if the USA qualifies, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games (July 24 – Aug. 9 in Tokyo), as well as additional USA training camps and exhibition games.

The U.S. and Staley will first look to capture the title at the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup of Basketball, with an automatic berth to the 2020 Olympic Games being awarded to the gold medalist. Should the U.S. not finish with the gold medal in 2018, it would have two additional opportunities to qualify for the Olympics: the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup (dates and site TBD) and the 2020 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (dates and site TBD).

USA Basketball Women’s National Team director Carol Callan serves as chair of the USA Women’s National Team Steering Committee. The committee also includes three-time Olympic and two-time World Championship gold medalist Katie Smith as the athlete representative; representing the WNBA is the league’s chief operating officer Jay Parry; University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, who coached USA teams to gold medals at the past two Olympics and FIBA World Championships and will serve as a special advisor; and two-time Olympic and 1998 FIBA World Championship gold medalist Ruthie Bolton is the at-large representative.  

FIBA World Cup of Basketball
The USA owns a record nine gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in FIBA World Cup play, while compiling an all-time 103-21 record at the event. In 2014, the most recent World Championship, the U.S. took the gold medal, while Spain captured silver and Australia won bronze.

Automatically qualified for two of the 16 World Cup slots are host Spain and the USA as defending Olympic champion. Twelve of the remaining 14 slots have been filled from three of the four FIBA qualifying tournaments already held in 2017, while the two nations emerging from the Africa Zone will be decided after the Aug. 26 African Championship semifinal games.

Qualified from the Asia Zone are Australia, China, Japan and South Korea; Argentina, Canada and Puerto Rico qualified out of the AmeriCup; while Belgium, France, Greece, Latvia and Turkey qualified out of Europe.

The 18th FIBA World Cup format will feature a round-robin competition in preliminary round play with four groups comprised of four teams each. Following the preliminary round, teams will be seeded according to group play, and all participating teams will advance to the round of 16. Winners will advance to the medal round, and the gold medal game will be played on Sept. 30.

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