Quotes: USA Basketball Women’s National Team Training Camp (10/2/17)
USA head coach Dawn Staley (University of South Carolina)
Can you wrap up the weekend for me?
I thought it was a great three-day camp. It was led by our experienced players in Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart. It was kind of a trickle-down effect. All the players took their lead. You can’t function very well if you don’t have great leadership. So, for the players who made the commitment, I thought it went extremely well on both sides of the ball. It was competitive. It was cerebral for some of them. We got a good pool of the players. If I had to write a script for a three-day training camp, it probably would have gone as well as it went for us.
On the number of USA National Team newcomers at the camp:
The challenge is getting people here. So, the 17 players that had committed to being here, I thought they had a great trials. They gave the committee something to start with in formulating what type of team we can have, so it’s a can’t miss when it comes to coming out here to this training camp.
I was excited coming out, wanting to get the training camp off the ground. But when it’s all said and done, it’s really just basketball. It’s what you do. It’s what you love to do, but you’re doing it in a form where the culture is a little bit different. This culture is what you strive for, USA Basketball culture on all levels. As a college coach, you can’t quite relay that to your team, because they don’t quite understand that, but it’s something you’re in pursuit of every single year, every single team that you coach.
Looking ahead, what is the timetable for you and the coaching staff to evaluate who is going to be on the 2018 USA World Cup Team?
We can discuss and evaluate all we want, but the committee is the one that picks the team. Obviously, we have a lot of great players to choose from. They’re all highly motivated and highly committed to winning gold medals. So, whatever players they give us, we’ll use and try to continue the pattern of success.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Can you wrap up this weekend for me?
I thought this camp was great. Obviously, it was unique in a lot of ways in that something like 90 percent of the camp had never been on the USA Women’s National Team. We had a lot of new people, and with that you saw what the next generation is going to be all about. Everybody was super locked-in, super focused. It was great to get started with Dawn (Staley). At the end when we all huddled up, one of the things that stuck out is that this is the start of the four-year journey. It really is. Even though there weren’t that many returning Olympians, you could see that USA Basketball is going to be in good hands.
If asked who stuck out, everybody had their moments and I think that’s a good sign because everybody was really … they just embraced what it means to be a USA Basketball athlete, a great teammate, everyone was cheering, supportive and obviously, everyone went out there and competed.
On the leadership of Breanna Stewart this weekend:
Yeah, (that leadership) is new for Stewie, and that happens. That happens quickly, very quickly in this line of work. You go from being a baby to a lot being expected of you from a leadership standpoint. We joked coming in that Stewie was going to be, in terms of experience, second-oldest on this camp’s roster. Stewie can always lead by example. She can always go out there and be the best player on the floor. But you could tell, she was a little more vocal. It started out as a joke, but she really did try to take that on throughout the camp.
What did you get out of this weekend?
Some awesome coaching and again, the USA Basketball culture and experience. The last time, as an 18-year-old being here and having your eyes opened to this level of excellence, and now being back at a higher level, an Olympic national team level, I think I just got a taste of what it will take to make this team and how much higher I have to climb.
Do you feel you got some greater exposure this weekend in your effort to make a national team?
Absolutely. That’s one of the positive things just seeing that wow, this was a really big year for me, and then I got invited to camp, and then holding my own. You realize you can be really good, and wow, if you climb the ladder, keep getting here and keep getting better, you can measure yourself with everyone else. You see Sue Bird starting the game, and then you go in and you know you have to keep that same level of leadership, that caliber of offensive execution and taking care of the ball. It was a really positive camp for me, and one that I can take a lot of self-confidence out of seeing how well I played and how poised I can be after being under a lot of pressure with those defensive drills. I just felt really poised.
What did you take away from Sue Bird as a player and a leader?
She’s never afraid to speak up. There are times where maybe I’m thinking something, but then I’m like oh, am I going to say that? She’s been doing this a while, and it is kind of expected of her. If you’re going to be that next great point guard, you just have to speak up and tell the team what you see. There are times I did and times I didn’t. Sometimes I heard her talking and she would say to not be afraid to tell your team what you are seeing out there. There were times out there on the court where she took time to teach others, saying, ‘Hey, we never help on this play’ or ‘Hey, don’t help off the post because they will slip in this.’ Just seeing her leadership out there up close and personal – because usually you’re on the other team and you can just hear her when you’re guarding her – but being on the same team is really fun. You don’t get those experiences too often.
What did you get out of this weekend?
It’s been a great experience playing with all of these professionals – just the way they go about things is so different. The level of intensity they have is so high, that I think that is something Katie Lou (Samuelson) and I can bring back to our team when we go back.
What was the most exciting thing about being at the camp?
Just playing with them. I grew up seeing a lot of them play on TV, and I never thought I’d get the chance to play with them in games, so just doing that was really cool.
Did you pick any of the veterans’ brains over the weekend?
Not specifically one person, but we did have conversations about overseas and where people are going, and their experiences with that. I think that was a really good learning thing for our future, understanding what people liked, what they didn’t like and what they’ve learned from it. That was really cool.
Did your previous USA Basketball experience help you this weekend with nerves?
I think it helped in the sense that I knew a lot of the coaching staff and the people here. I know how USA expects us to leave things, working hard and those kinds of things. The players here, playing with them was a little intimidating at first, because I’ve watched them all play before, but they were all super welcoming and invited us all in.
Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings)
Can you wrap up this weekend for me?
It’s been an amazing experience. Every time you get the call to come out to USA Basketball, you come. It was very competitive. We had some young, fresh talent in here and it was obviously led by Sue (Bird), who is the veteran. It’s great to learn from these coaches. Obviously, we have a new set of coaches and getting to pick their brains apart was great. It’s a great group of girls, I thought everyone was real cool. It’s fun when you get to talk and play with players that you normally don’t get the chance to play with. Any time you get to compete with some of the best in the country, you come and do it. I thought it was a competitive camp. We got a lot done. I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to what the next steps are.
Did you approach this camp differently than you have in the past or change any aspect of your game?
When I tore my ACL, it was 2015 and it was right after the (USA National Team) camp. It’s just an anomaly. It is what it is. So, I don’t know if I changed my approach with how I came in here, but just how I approached the game of basketball in taking care of my body, just being older and wiser and having more years under my belt. I have more years in the league, more experience playing the game. I think that’s what helped me out – this is not my first camp. I’ve been to USA National Team camps before and go to compete, so it’s really a sense of knowing what to expect. I kind of understand what’s going on.
I’m just trying to be a leader now. Even though I haven’t made an Olympic team yet, just being with the program for so many years. I’m just trying to make sure I’m a leader, I compete and have fun. I think a lot of times we put pressure on ourselves that like, ‘I’ve got to be perfect!’ I learned just coming to this, just playing your game and contributing to the team is not about what you might normally do for your other teams. It’s about sacrificing for the greater good. I learned a lot, had fun and definitely got better.