USA Faces First Test Versus Canada in Exhibition
For the first time since gathering for training camp on Sept. 3, the 2018 USA Basketball Women’s National Team will have someone other than its own team members to compete against and test its strength.
The USA will take on Canada at 7 p.m. EDT on Sept. 8 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Tickets are available at usab.com/WNTTickets. For those not in the area, the game will be televised on NBA TV, and live stats will be available online.
Here is what you need to know:
EVALUATING IN EXHIBITION
While the USA split into two teams to play a Red-White game on Sept. 5 in Columbia, South Carolina, its exhibition contest against Canada will present the first opportunity for USA head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina) to evaluate her roster as a whole.
Additionally, the USA still is in the process of determining which 12 players will represent the USA at the FIBA World Cup later this month.
“I’m hoping we come out and just execute on both sides of the ball,” Staley said. “We put a lot of information in. Some of it is review, some of it is new, so we are looking to see some of the players who are actually able to grasp it all and set themselves apart from some other players. We’re still in a trial basis in that we are looking to build a 12-member team. I hope the players put their best foot forward and make it really hard for the committee.
“I’m looking for us to push the ball down the floor,” Staley said of her goals for the team. “I’m looking for us to force some turnovers with our defense, and then create some offense from our defense. We have to execute, to share the basketball and not have a stagnant offense.”
THE USA’S EVOLVING ROSTER
After the Red-White game, which included 18 hopefuls for the 2018 USA World Cup Team, 14 players were announced as continuing on in training camp to Connecticut, and the roster further was bolstered by the addition of Elizabeth Williams, who helped the Atlanta Dream advance to the 2018 WNBA semifinals and joined the team in New York on Sept. 7. Williams makes 15 U.S. players for the USA versus Canada.
“Anytime I have the opportunity to play with USA Basketball, I always want to take it,” Williams said. “After the season, I didn’t want to sulk too much. Obviously, we came up a little short. But, I know that preparation for this tournament is really important, so I was ready to get here.”
Moving forward, the USA may or may not add WNBA Finals participants Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm and Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics, as well as three players who just days ago exited the WNBA playoffs – Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury).
Of the 15 athletes and three coaches who will take part in the USA’s game against Canada, six have current or college connections to area, perhaps none more immediate than 2018-19 University of Connecticut student-athlete Napheesa Collier, Connecticut Sun guard Layshia Clarendon and Morgan Tuck, who currently plays for the Sun and graduated from UConn in 2016.
“It’s going to be really cool,” Collier said. “My whole team is coming, so just having their support is going to be great, and then also the Connecticut fans. I think we have the best fans in the country, so having them be there should be really fun.”
USA hopeful Tina Charles graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2010 and plays for the New York Liberty, and Stefanie Dolson graduated in 2014. Additionally, Jennifer Rizzotti (USA assistant and George Washington University head coach), graduated from Connecticut in 1996.
On the other side of the ball, Canada’s Kia Nurse graduated from UConn just a few months ago in 2018.
Canada’s roster also includes Natalie Achonwa and Kayla Alexander, who are WNBA teammates with the USA’s Kelsey Mitchell and Tiffany Mitchell with the Indiana Fever.
“It will be good to see them,” Kelsey Mitchell said. “I haven’t seen them in a while now, since our season has been over. They are really good people, and I know they are going to represent hard for Canada. They love where they come from, and throughout the course of the season, they would bring stuff back from Canada, like snacks and stuff.”
Kelsey Mitchell admitted there might be a friendly rivalry, but she didn’t spend much time giving her team details on Achonwa or Alexander. Instead, the USA coaches watched a bit of recent video.
“We had a chance to watch video from play that they participated in in August,” said USA assistant coach Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx). “They were still finalizing their roster, but you get an idea of what the system is going to look like.
“I think at this point, all the teams are working on themselves,” Reeve explained. “We would be no different in that, just installing what Dawn (Staley) wants and working on executing those things. It is a very fluid process. We still have players trying to make the team, so we are still evaluating and mostly focused on ourselves.”