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Huddle

USA Basketball Women's National Team Practice Quotes

  • Date:
    Sep 3, 2018

Dawn Staley (USA and University of South Carolina head coach)
What did you hope to see out of this group during training camp?
Just progress. We are in a position where it is fluid as to who we are going to have. But for us and our coaching staff, we just have to keep moving forward. We can’t worry about who we have, who we don’t have, we have to implement the style of play we want on both sides of the ball and just fill players in. Obviously, at that start of it, we thought we were going to have a whole lot of Olympians. But, some of them have gotten hurt, some of them have decided not to play. But, we have to move forward to the ones that are committed and that are going to help us compete for another World Cup gold medal. 

As players get knocked out of the WNBA playoffs, are you hoping the national team players show up the next day?
That’s the best-case scenario, but we know that won’t happen. If they get knocked out tomorrow, hopefully we will see them maybe in D.C. They have to go back and back, and they have exit meetings and all that. So, best-case scenario would be for them to join us in D.C.

What is it like to have four Gamecocks out there?
It’s the best. I think for me, it helps with familiarity to see some of your players out there. They know what plays we’re running, so they don’t stick out like a sore thumb – none of them did today, which is always a great thing to see. Because they all have aspirations to play in the WNBA and playing on this level, and what better way to do than in this setting.

What will it be like to play the Red-White game with four Gamecocks?
It will be awesome. This community has built up supporting our team, supporting women’s basketball, and, it is something that I want it to happen here just as a reward for what they’ve done for our team, our program, our state. To play a game here of this magnitude, with former players, it’s a great thank you to our fans.

How much different are you feeling this time around as the USA head coach?
I’m comfortable. I’ve been around USA Basketball a long time. A lot of these players have been in camps that we had over the past three or four years, when I was an assistant coach under Geno (Auriemma), so it’s familiar. It’s just I have to talk more, which I don’t mind doing, because it comes with the territory. But, we got a great staff, and we have continuity with our staff. Cheryl (Reeve) was an assistant coach with me, and Jen (Rizzotti) was in the role of coach (Lisa) Boyer. So, we have instant chemistry. So, it makes everything run a lot smoother.

Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
You’re receiving the 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Mannie Jackson - Human Spirit Award for your off-court efforts in your community and through Hopey’s Heart Foundation. How do you feel about the fact that everything you’ve done is being recognized at such a high level?
It means a lot for Hopey’s Heart to be recognized. It’s a reflection of my aunt Maureen (‘Hopey’ Vaz). (I’m) willing to be a servant unto others and help keep communities’ hearts safe through the placement of AEDs, raising awareness of sudden cardiac arrest. But, it really, really means a lot to myself, to my mother, to our family and to Hopey’s Heart Foundation.   

At the beginning of practice Carol Callan called out three people in the group who had showed a longtime commitment to USA Basketball and the importance of that. One was you. The other were Katie Smith and Dawn Staley. How did that make you feel?
I was very taken back by Miss Carol. Miss Carol and I have always had a great relationship. She’s known me since I was 15, so she’s seen me when I was in my younger days. She sees me now when I’m older, and it’s really great that she recognizes things that I do off the court and what really means the most to me in trying to maximize the platform that I’m on to try and inspire others.

Being the most veteran player on the court, what are you trying to teach some of the younger athletes?
Just to really enjoy the experience, to take it all in. It’s very rare that you’re among the elite. I remember my first go-round in 2009 when we were in Russia, and I was really star struck by everyone who was around me. But, having the likes of Diana (Taurasi) and Sue (Bird), they really brought me in. So, I’m trying to do the same thing here, make them feel comfortable, allow them to play their game, talk to them. But, I really love being with USA Basketball.  

In 2009 in your first USA National Team event, do you remember the significance of wearing the red jersey and how do you think the six younger players here are feeling about it?
I think it might be going over their heads a little bit. It’s sort of like when I won my first Olympic gold medal in London in 2012. Diana and Sue and Catch (Tamika Catchings) were all in tears. They were all emotional, and I didn’t understand why. But, after a while you start taking in the process that it takes to win with USA Basketball. We don’t have a lot of time together, and the fact that you have a group of women who can be selfless and put themselves last. Not who they represent for their WNBA team, but what it will mean for them to accomplish the goal of winning a gold medal, it’s really sweet. 

Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky)
After playing on numerous junior national teams, all of which wear blue and white, how does it feel to be here wearing the red jersey of the USA Women’s National Team?
I’m actually really happy to be here. I think I played on just about every junior national team, so to have been a part of the pipeline of USA Basketball, and to have made it all the way through, I feel like I kind of graduated. I made it here. Now, obviously, there’s one more team that I’m trying to make. But, I’ve worked for it, and I’m just happy to be here. 

What would you bring to the USA World Cup Team?
Obviously, my athleticism on the wing, my ability to defend. I feel like I can be one of the best defenders in the league, in the world, and I think that would be the first thing for me. Obviously, we have a lot of scorers. That’s what USA Basketball always has. I can score, too. But, that’ll be secondary to my defense. 

Do you feel that having played a season in Turkey, as well as all your international games with USA Basketball, helps you transition quicker to international play here?
For sure. There are a lot of little adjustments you have to make when you start to play internationally. There are different rule changes and things of that nature. So, it definitely prepares you when you have a year under your belt. 

You played for Jen Rizzotti on the 2011 USA U19 World Cup Team. What is it like being back out here, having her as one of your coaches?
When I was young, I was a knucklehead, and coach Jen was always on me. I was actually laughing with Morgan Tuck and Stefanie (Dolson) about it and some of the practices we had with coach Jen. Specifically, the encounters she and I had at practice (laughing). But, it’s good. It’s all fun. I’ve come a long way since then. It’s nice to be here with somebody familiar who can see my growth. I’m just happy to see her. 

Ty Harris (University of South Carolina)
How was practice for you?
I think offensively I can do a little more here and there. I was kind of hesitant. But, as the practice went on, I think I did better. I just like to see how everybody plays, the speed of the game and how physical they are, and I think I adjusted well to that.

Did you get advice from the veterans?
Odyssey Sims – actually all of the veterans were talking to me. As a whole they talk to and try to bring along the young players. 

How is this going to help you as a college athlete?
Just being out here with a lot of veterans and just playing at a quicker pace, watching what they do, I think it will help me with my team, personally. And tomorrow, actually, I have a practice with my team. So, just coming from practicing with USA and then going to my team, I can bring the talking, the communication, the leadership skills, and all of that stuff.

On wearing her first USA Women’s National Team practice jersey:
It was an amazing feeling, because I played on two younger USA Basketball teams, and they wear navy, of course. And when I put the red on, and everybody is like, ‘Oh, first time wearing red!’ So, it was just an exciting feeling.

At what point did you get excited about this opportunity? Was it when you got the call? Or maybe, when you got your jersey?

When I got asked, I was excited. But not until I actually put on the jersey and I saw everybody and we actually got clapping up and started warming up, that’s when I got anxious and excited. It wasn’t nervousness, it was more just ready to go out there and see how things work out for me.

Sabrina Ionescu (University of Oregon)
On her first senior national team practice: 
Day one was good. It was definitely different from what I’m used to, but it was nice to learn from the older players who have played on this national team and in the WNBA. 

What were your biggest adjustments today as a player?
Just the physicality of the game. That and the overall speed of the game is a lot different than what you’re used to in college. I think at every level, it just gets harder and harder, and they were just definitely a lot stronger, quicker and had a better understanding of the game and adjustments. They helped me through that, and they showed great leadership. So, it was nice for me to be out there playing with them. 

Of the veteran players, who had you not met yet?
I hadn’t met a lot of them, especially the ones on my team in practice. Of course, I know Kelsey Plum from Washington in the Pac-12 Conference, so I was able to learn from her just knowing her a little bit. I have played with Kelsey Mitchell, too, so that helped as well. But, I had never met Tina Charles or a lot of the others on my team, but they helped me. I kind of just learned from everyone as it went along. We put in a few new plays and ran through the offense a little bit, and then we just went out there and played, but everything we learned was pretty straight-forward. Coach Dawn (Staley) explained it well, so it was easy to get a hold of.

Arike Ogunbowale (University of Notre Dame)
On donning the red uniform of the USA National team for the very first time:
I feel a little bit more official, being elevated to be out here as a part of the top national team and to be able to compete with them. So, it’s an honor to be able to put on this red jersey.  

Nneka Ogwumike spoke to the team prior to practice. What did she tell you, and what did you take away from it?
She said that in February, Dawn (Staley) said the first practice was rough, so she wanted us to get after it and compete. We’re all here for the same reason, we’re all here to get better. So, that’s what she wanted us to do. 

What have you learned so far, just one day with the USA National Team?
A lot of things. Just listening to them talk, listening to their experiences that they have, talking to them. I’m just taking in as much as I can. 

Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
What did you say to the team in the huddle prior to practice?
It’s important for everyone to know, especially now, because we have a very unique group going into Worlds. Since I’ve been with USA Basketball I’m not sure that we’ve been this young, this inexperienced. We have to roll with who we have, so it’s important for people to understand, yeah, you want to make the team, but you’re not going to do that doing things that you’ve never done before. I wanted people to understand that we’re all here for one goal, that’s to win a gold medal. So, do your best and take advantage of the opportunity. I can speak from experience, you always have to take advantage of your opportunity. 

As one of the more veteran players out here, have any of the younger players asked you for advice or are you simply leading by example?
I’ve always been a person who leads by example, but I’ve become more vocal in the latter part of my career. I know that as a post player it’s a little different, because you’re not really directing the floor. But, you can still be a leader in a lot of different ways. So, I kind of feel the role now, with the group that we have. And, it’s important for people to know that just because you have some older, experienced players, doesn’t mean that they know everything that they’re doing. It has to be a collaborative effort.  

How did practice go today as to compared to the first day in the February camp when coach Dawn Staley said she didn’t think it was very good?
Way better! I think people are more comfortable with their peers, I guess you could say. It’s always great to have sprinkled vets here and there, but it kind of gives these youngsters an opportunity to see what the next level is like and to see what USA Basketball at this level is like. I think today we did a good job of introducing things and with people understanding what coach Staley wants. 

Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun)
You played for Jen Rizzotti on the 2011 USA U19 World Cup Team. Realizing she was head coach then and an assistant coach here, what kind of differences do you see in her coaching style since that time?
I think she still brings that intensity. I think back to that U19 team, and I personally hadn’t had a lot of female coaches in my basketball career, and I remember she was so fiery and feisty. I loved that about her. I think she’s someone that all of us looked up to, and we respected her, because she played and did everything we’re going through. At the same time, you can tell that her knowledge of the game is crazy. She knows what to call, how to motivate. She had the whole package as a coach. And from then to now, she’s just gotten even better and kept improving. 

Have you, Diamond DeShields and Stef Dolson talked at all about that trip?
We were talking about Diamond’s growth since that team and how all of us, when we look back to seven years ago, and then to see the same people out here, it’s cool that we have that. 

Carol Callan at the beginning of practice talked about the commitment players have to USA Basketball and called out three who are here – Tina Charles, Katie Smith and Dawn Staley. What did you take away from that?
It’s loyalty. Her pointing those people out and giving their background … I think we all know more about Tina, because we got to see her play when we were growing up. But, to hear about Katie and Dawn, that’s a lot. She said it quick, like, ‘oh, she’s a three-time Olympian, she won two World Cup gold medals,’ but that’s over a lot of years, and a lot of time in practices and traveling. For us, it makes us feel that what we’re doing now, it’s nothing compared to what they did. So, hopefully we can be on their level one day. 

A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces/Hopkins, S.C.)
What is this experience like to play for coach Staley and see her lead the USA Basketball team?
It is a lot of fun. It really is. It’s a blessing. I’m so happy for coach (Staley). Through it all and everything she does for the game, and the game is repaying her in such a positive way. 

What is the best piece of advice coach Staley has given you during your transition?
The best piece of advice I would have to say coach Staley has given me would have to be just to be myself. Be myself on the court. Don’t try to do too much, but yet – things she would constantly tell me in college – don’t blend, don’t be average. I hear those things coming back on the court. If I’m not stepping up, if I’m not producing, then I’m kind of like, ‘Okay, you’re being average. You’re blending.’ And then, coach knew that would tick me off and I’d get that motivation.


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