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Quotes: USA Basketball Women’s National Team

  • Date:
    Apr 24, 2018

USA head coach Dawn Staley (University of South Carolina)
On the veteran leadership:
It’s great. Each and every camp that we’ve had we’ve had more veterans coming into the fold and it just makes things a lot easier. It is cleaner basketball out there, and it’s fun to be around such talent.  

What do you expect out of the game against China?
It will be a great opportunity for us to play a game. This is our third training camp, and a lot of times when you are a competitor, you just see training camp as practice. But now they see a game at the end of the tunnel, and that’s what you want, to practice and play. We are looking to just continue the success that we’ve had in previous Olympic games, previous World Cup games and previous exhibition games.

On starting the run in 1996 and now being the head coach to keep the streak going:
It’s awesome. I did not aspire to be an Olympic coach, because that is something I didn’t experience very early on. But when you’re a part of USA Basketball and this culture, I grew up in it. I was a player. I was an assistant coach. And now, I’m a head coach. It feels good to be able to climb the ladder and to head such a great organization. 

How hard is it going to be to pick players for this team?
We actually have a committee that picks the team, so each and every training camp gives the committee an opportunity to see the team chemistry that has formed. So I guess by the time, I don’t know when the drop dead time is for us to pick our World Cup team, but obviously these training camps help.

How difficult will that decision be?
Oh man, I wouldn’t want that job. I am glad that I am not a part of it and that I am not on the committee, because they have a tough job. You have the best players in the world, and to have to send one of the best players home, it’s a tough job. But, I think the players understand why they come here. They have a dream of being an Olympian, and the only way to do that is that you continue to come to these training camps and put yourself in front of the committee, so you get a great opportunity to be seen.

Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx)
On returning to the USA Basketball mix for the first time since 2016:
It feels good. Any time we come together, it’s a glorious moment. Now, to see a lot of new faces, these young players and me being in a position as one of the vets, it’s great to be around and to pass along some knowledge from over the years of playing with USA Basketball. So, we can bring them up to speed a bit faster.

On being in her first USA training camp since the 2016 Olympics:
I had heard a lot of crazy stuff. Like, it was super hard in September and February was a bit tough. But no, she’s a player’s coach. She understands the player’s side of everything, and she just finds ways to push us. Today, it was competitive. We just got after it from the jump. That’s what we look forward to when we play with USA Basketball. It was good today, I won’t lie. But, what I heard before was almost scary, almost like we were going back to college days with some of the drills and stuff. Obviously she’s tapered it down, and it fits more of what we got going on for the next two days.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
(question unintelligible)
You look around and you have the Chicago Sky, Washington Mystics, Phoenix Mercury, but the minute you put this jersey on, it’s different. Everybody’s rooting for you, because everybody wants to see the country do well.

Do you get a lot of autograph or photo requests from people overseas or do people not cheer for you?
The first thing that comes to mind is that we have had a lot of success in the past 10, 15, 20-plus years, but we did lose in 2006. Myself and Diana, out of this group, were on that team. We played Russia in the semifinals, and when the game started it was a pretty neutral crowd. We were in Brazil, not a lot of Russian fans, and then as the game went, it was like early in the fourth and they had a lead, and all of a sudden everyone was chanting ‘Russia!’ And you’re like, wait a minute. That was my first moment of realizing that everybody wants to see us lose. They don’t care. It could have been Russia; it could have been anybody. The minute there was a taste of us going down, everybody jumped on board. That was a dose of reality right there.

On her veteran leadership:
There’s that happy medium of wanting to be a helper in some ways, wanting to give advice when I can. The same way players like Dawn did when I was a younger player. But, you also want those younger players to be themselves and kind of figure it out on their own. There’s something to be said for that as well. So, it’s just kind of that relationship. As you go, you kind of dance with it and see how it works.

Napheesa Collier (University of Connecticut)
On playing with the veterans:
It’s a lot different in the way they play. Obviously, they are bigger, faster, stronger, but they are just so much smarter in the way they play, too. There’s so much you can learn from them.

On matching up with the other post players:
I think just the fact that I’m smaller than most of our post players here, I have to play a lot smarter. Just getting around, I can’t bump them and force them out of the way like some of the other post players can.

On learning from the veteran post players:
They are all super cool and really welcoming. They have done a great job of bringing us younger players under their wings and helping us. I think that’s been really cool of them so far.

Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
On returning to the USA Basketball mix for the first time since 2016:
It feels good. I think you get a sense of urgency when you’re back, because we came out here cool, calm and collected. In previous years, we’ve come out here going zero to 100, can’t slow down, turning the ball over, can’t get into a groove. I think it’s a good thing we’re getting this experience now early on. Now that we’re back, it’s like we’ve never missed a beat. I’m happy to be back!

On being in her first USA training camp since the 2016 Olympics:
I’m loving day one. I was asking a lot of questions, as if I was on recruiting trips. I was asking the others, ‘What has practice been like in the past?’ ‘What do I have to look forward to?’ I was kind of nervous for a little bit. But, I think she got it now. was good. It’s good to be out here with the veterans. We have a couple of babies out here, so that mixture of youth is good. You can tell they are young ones because they are still going 100 miles per hour. Whew - we were there at one point. But, the first practice was good.

On mentoring the younger players at the camp:
Them being here competing is making them better, definitely for the long run, especially if they decide to play internationally. I think this will help them a lot, just to get this experience playing with the best. Shoot, they look to us for guidance, but we look to them, as well. It’s give and take. You want to learn a little bit, we’ll teach you. But at the same time, if you see something, I would like for you to let me know as well.

Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings)
What’s it like being out here with so much veteran leadership?
It’s cool. You’re learning from legends of the game. They teach you a lot. Being in the huddle, Sue (Bird) brought us in and was like, ‘It’s just basketball. Don’t rush anything. Play your game.’ They’re definitely also teachers of the game, so I’m just trying my best to learn from them and listen to everything they have to say, because I respect all of them.

What do Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles bring to the mix?
They bring a lot. Syl is big, MVP, she’s just a great player. And Seimone, she’s also so good. They also bring a lot of knowledge to the game, being on the Lynx for a very long time. They bring good size. Seimone’s a big guard, and Syl’s a beast I the paint.

What are you hoping to get out of this camp?
It’s fun. I’m just here enjoying the process, just playing my hardest and giving it everything I’ve got. It would be nice to play against China, but I’m just here to have a good time. It’s a good camp to help me know where I am heading into my team’s training camp as well.

Kelsey Mitchell (Indiana Fever)
On her growing experiences at a USA Women’s National Team camp:
I’m very grateful. It’s a new experience for me, so I’m kind of all over the place, but I know the more I’m here, the better I’ll be. So, I’m happy to be here with the vets teaching me the ropes and everything.

On what she’s learned from the veterans so far:
It’s a process. It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint. There’s a lot that I don’t know, and I’m probably frustrated with it right now, but they say there’s a lot that I’m not supposed to know. The more that I’m around and being here for the process, just understanding that is something I’m already taking away.

On competing with the veteran group of guards:
I love it. Getting to compete at such high level against them and with them, I couldn’t ask for anything more. Sure, you get beat up, you take a couple of hits – I’m happy about it.

On building relationships with the veteran guards:
It’s one of those things where you don’t know how to feel until after a while. I’m still fresh on it, but to have a conversation on a personal level – because you never think it will happen – I would just say that it’s to be continued, just because it’s fresh to me. But, knowing that I can have a conversation with them, knowing what they’ve been through and paved the way for us to do, I’m definitely grateful to have them here to talk to me and teach me things that I truly don’t know.

Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
How do you feel about this training camp and your veteran role here?
You know what’s great about it? Every time you come, it’s a new group of players. And with those new players, there’s that old group of players that you’ve gotten along with and you’ve gone into battle with so many times. The staff has pretty much stayed the same. Now with Dawn being the head coach, it’s a brand new phase and a brand new look of what we’re trying to do. But, it’s still a challenge to come out here and try to compete, try to do the things the right way to hopefully win another World Cup.

You have been so good for so long, what are some of the things you’ve experienced with opponents acting like fans?
Those are probably the funny times. You’re signing autographs, and then you have to go compete against them. But, they always go on the court. They always play hard, and some of those things happen once in a while.

Have you ever traded jerseys with other teams?
In (2000) we played against the Argentina team, and I traded my whole uniform for one of the Argentine’s uniform, because that’s where my whole family is from. They’re going to be at the World Cup this year, so hopefully there’s a 6-foot Argentinian who wants to trade.

How hard will it be for the committee to make the final cut?
It’s not even … you don’t get cut, it’s just numbers. It’s a numbers game. You only get 12. You can only have 12 on the team, and you have to pick 12 that work together the best. Sometimes it’s not the 12 best players in the world, but it’s the 12 that work together the best, who make each other a great team. That’s always the hardest job that the coach and the committee have, to narrow down the crew to 12 compatible players. They’ve always seemed to do a pretty good job of that.

You and Sue Bird have so much experience, are other players coming to you for advice?
Yeah. I feel like we’re senior citizen members of this team. We’ve been on this team since 2004, Sue has been on it since 2002 at the World Championship. So, we take a lot of pride coming in here and making sure that these young kids are going to be ready to take the helm, whenever it is. It might be next year, it might be after the Olympics. Who knows?

Sydney Wiese (Los Angeles Sparks)
What are your expectations for training camp?
To have fun and to learn. I’m surrounded by the best in the world and being able to compete with them and against them, I’m asking a lot of questions and trying to take all these lessons into my WNBA training camp. We have a lot of great veterans, and they’re really willing to help us. So, I just want to make sure I make the most of the opportunity and to have fun with it.

What are you learning from them?
The way that they play the game, their mental I.Q. is … they have so much experience. So, I’m trying to gain from their experience, seeing things from their perspective, asking little questions about the offense, the defense, different sets, specific things like that. And other than that, just playing hard and watching how they support each other, watching how hard they play, how they feed off of each other. So, a lot of observation and a lot of questions.

Having been at the camp in February, was it easier coming in today, knowing what coach Staley wants from you?
Yeah, definitely. We started off the first day with review, so knowing that from the previous camp, it really helped. I remember the first day of camp in February, everyone was all over the place. We were dribbling off of our legs. We were missing layups. Things that you wouldn’t normally see. And then today, we felt more relaxed. We knew the expectations, so it was definitely a lot easier to work our way back into the flow.

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