News & Notes: USA National Team Camp Day 3
Attitude Reflects Leadership
“Take it down one notch,” said coach Dawn Staley, head coach of the USA National Team and University of South Carolina, as the USA Women’s National Team flew up-and-down the court in its final scrimmage of the February camp.
It seems like an odd thing to ask of the best basketball players in the world, but Staley knows a thing or two. And she wasn’t asking for less intensity or effort. Instead, Staley simply asked for her team to slow down, to play with more composure. She asked, they obliged, and the result was better basketball.
That was the entire purpose of the weekend for the USA National Team – better basketball. Becoming a better unit, a better team, better friends – whatever it was, the hope was to improve as a team.
Two-time Olympic and two-time FIBA World Cup gold medalist Tina Charles viewed it as a successful weekend in that regard.
“I thought it was a great camp,” said Charles. “When the time comes, I think the committee is going to have a really hard time choosing the 12 (for the 2018 FIBA World Cup). This weekend, I think Dawn did a great job with the atmosphere, explaining what she is looking for from us as players.”
In addition to catching up with some of her UConn pals, Charles particularly enjoyed the competitiveness of some of the camp’s younger athletes.
“Just the fact that I’ve been around, being able to nurture them and tell them little things, especially like Stef Dolson, Elizabeth Williams, Morgan Tuck, just to be there as far as a presence to help them. I know Sue (Bird) was doing the same things with the guards.”
It’s true. At one point on Sunday, an entire team huddle turned to listen intently as Sue Bird dipped into coach mode. There was no lack of respect.
“It was pretty surreal, just even to fly with a couple of them,” said Sydney Wiese, who was making her first appearance at a senior-level USA National Team camp.
“I was on a flight out here from Phoenix with Brittney Griner, and I was like, okay, this is casual. Then I met up with Stefanie and Jewell (Loyd) in Chicago, and then a couple times in the hallway at the hotel, I’d run into Diana (Taurasi) and Sue Bird. So, it’s all these people that I watched growing up. Being able to compete on this same floor, that is such an honor. Taking away the experiences that they have learned from past Olympics and the examples that they’ve set, they’ve been super helpful.”
Reading between the lines, that’s what it is all about. As retired General Martin E. Dempsey joked on Saturday, certain veterans cannot play forever, and even though they may have world-class basketball still in them, a changing of the guard must come one day or another. Camps like this build culture.
“It is great to have such great veteran leadership – some who were able to play this weekend, some who weren’t,” said Staley. “It was great to have them in the mix because they are the ones that keep USA Basketball going. They keep the culture intact. They keep the high level of play intact, the intensity.
“I saw Sue pull her team aside and say hey, let’s think about this offense and what we need to do to perfect it and execute it. That’s invaluable. You need players like herself to come in here, lend their leadership, lend their experiences to the young players. The camp doesn’t go as successfully without everybody’s commitment to that.”
Attitude reflects leadership.
“I’m in awe of (Dawn), just her accomplishments, where she is, being a player, knowing what it’s like,” said Charles, “I’m really happy for her. I was really excited to be there with her. I know this is going to be great.”
Soul Food in Columbia
Staley made at least one person’s day on Saturday, after Griner asked her new coach where she needed to head for some good eats.
“I got you,” said Staley.
Griner didn’t even need to leave the hotel. Two hours passed and the team’s training room smelled of fried chicken, collard greens, pulled pork and a myriad of other southern dishes.
Consider it a small treat from Staley for the team descending upon her home of Columbia, South Carolina. Although a jam-packed schedule for Staley, which included a road trip to Alabama on Thursday and a home contest versus Florida following Sunday’s USA practice, she couldn’t have been more excited to have the red, white and blue in her city.
“When we decided that we were going to have camp here, there was an incredible buzz,” Staley said.
“A buzz from our fans and all of the people that live here. I know that it’s considered a football town, but it’s becoming a basketball town. To have USA Basketball here – even though the public didn’t get a chance to see any of it – they know they’re here. They are tweeting about. I’m just very happy to have this in our wonderful city.”