News & Notes: USA National Team Camp Day 2
With USA Basketball Chairman retired General Martin E. Dempsey sitting front and center, the USA Women’s National Team filed in two rows behind the coaching staff and player selection committee for a proper team photo to start off day two of the national team minicamp.
As if the room wasn’t already full of a wealth of knowledge – mostly basketball – Gen. Dempsey stood after the photo, turned and offered some words to live by.
“You finish the mission first,” said Gen. Dempsey. “It’s not about you. Never accept defeat. You’re going to get beat sometimes, but you can never accept defeat. You can never quit. Forty minutes – every minute counts and every possession counts.”
He cracked a joke about basketball careers eventually coming to an end, sliding a look to USA veterans Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), and then he carried on.
“And most important for me, I will never leave a fallen comrade. So, while you’re a team – now in our case it was literally a fallen comrade – but in your case, you’re going to know when your teammates are having up-and-down days. You’re just going to know that, because you become a family. Pick each other up, and if you do that, then you’ll be living up to the culture of USA Basketball.”
If Friday was the appetizer, Saturday was the entrée. Staley inserted a new offensive look before the team even stretched, if that gives anyone an idea of how quickly things moved.
Every bit of action intensified. Passes moved crisply. Shots fell. People hit the deck.
“The players really understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” said USA head coach Dawn Staley. “Things just slowed down, they slowed down to a pace where they can be effective. I thought that yesterday we shot out of a cannon and really couldn’t stop the bleeding. But today, it looked much better, felt much better out there.”
During a group shooting competition, teams were forced to make back-to-back shots to score one point. Bird and Maya Moore’s (Minnesota Lynx) squad, with Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm) as a helpful rebounder, took the top prize. After Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics) hit an elbow jumper and stepped to the free throw line for a pair to win it for her team, Angel McCoughtry’s (Atlanta Dream) squad at the other end took notice, hit their final elbow jumper and threw up two, quick free throws to steal a late come-from-behind victory.
And that was just the start.
Fast forward one hour and a massive comeback from the white team, and it’s a tie ballgame, 84-84, in the intrasquad scrimmage. With eight seconds to decide the game, Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream) took her left-handed dribble all the way to the tin, where she was met by Delle Donne. It was a charge on most planets, but no whistles were blown, play continued and Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky) tipped it in as time expired, much to the protest of the white squad.
There is no replay system in place at training camp, if you were not aware, but in stepped coach Staley, who called for sudden death.
The red team came up empty on its first possession, giving the white team its chance. Tina Charles (New York Liberty) was doubled in the corner before dumping it off to Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream), who found Layshia Clarendon (Atlanta Dream) on a backdoor cut for the winner, sealing the deal on a climactic ending, as the morning practice session deserved.
“It got real competitive,” said Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury). “People were diving on the floor for loose balls, saving it from going out, some real physical plays. It just brings out the best in us. When we can do that, go after each other super hard, it’s going to make us better. It’s going to make the USA team better, too.
More Fun Stuff
With the start of the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, players were asked to provide their sport alternatives to basketball – if they weren’t world-class basketball athletes.
“I love curling,” exclaimed Dolson. Others seem to enjoy curling, too. Check out their answers here.
Delle Donne, though, had perhaps the best answer.
“I would do bobsledding. ‘Cool Runnings’ was one of my favorite movies growing up. That’s when I started loving bobsledding, and ever since then it’s been one of my favorite things to watch. I don’t know if I could fit in the sled, however. I might have to change that (laughs).