USA National Team Practice Quotes (9/17/19)
Dawn Staley (South Carolina), USA head coach
How was the first day of practice with this group?
I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the pace. I enjoyed our commitment to defense. I even enjoy having the younger players out here. I like the dynamics of our WNBA players guarding our game in that they communicated with them, they saw where the pace wasn’t as quick as normal. So, they pulled the younger players aside and talked to them about how to play at a higher pace. It’s just good to have everybody in the gym. It’s good to see Sue, Diana, Skylar, it’s good to have them around even though they’re not practicing, and of course Sylvia. They’re learning about what we want to do on both sides of the ball. So, it’s great all the way around in preparation for the Olympics.
Do you recall in 2002 when Sue Bird was just out of college or 2004 with Diana Taurasi joining straight from Connecticut, pulling them aside and teaching them about playing at this level? How much do you see that repeating here?
That’s the culture of USA Basketball. We are the gatekeepers of our game, but specifically USA Basketball. When you walk into this kind of setting, it is ‘do as they’re doing and do as you’re told.’ When you have that kind of mentality, nothing creeps in that detracts from the ultimate goal, which is winning gold medals.
Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings)
What is it like to be back here with the USA National Team?
It feels great. I’ve been progressing ever since I had my baby, just stepping back from the ball and refocusing. The last few months I’ve been trying to go hard, get my body back in shape. You set goals and plans may change, so I learned a lot about myself and my body through that experience. Obviously, I played the (2018) season a little bit pregnant, missed Worlds, but it’s good to be around this group. I feel like I’ve been saying the same thing for like 15, 16 years since I’ve been a part of USA Basketball, you learn. It’s always a learning experience. It’s all about being around great players, being able to play with players you don’t normally get to play with. Learning from different coaches and basketball minds. Now I’m coming back and you’ve got players who were born in the 2000s. For my experience, going from one of the younger ones around to now with this group, I’m one of the older ones as far as experience and age. So, it feels good coming back with a little more experience. Even my mindset, I’m refreshed. I don’t know if it has to do with my son, but I’m inspired. I’m excited about the opportunity as far as the expanded national team goes. It’s always a goal of mine to play for Team USA and this is a goal I’ve been going after for about 15 years. So, I’m going to show up, have fun and definitely take it as a learning experience.
What do you think the younger players can take away from this camp?
Being able to get play next to women you may have looked up to or followed or watched play in the league who already have the blueprint set. Women who already have been through these things. If you’re the type of young player to ask questions, interact, talk, this is a great opportunity for you. So, it’s a great group of girls so far. I don’t know a lot of these young ladies, it’s my first time being around most of these college players, but watching them on TV and things like that, there’s a reason they’re here. So, I’m excited for them. It’s a good opportunity for them. I told them to have fun, relax and talk to somebody, ask questions.
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
How does it feel to be playing basketball back here in your hometown?
It feels great! It feels great to be back home because for one, I’m from here, and two, my home is right up the street. So, I got back to Miami two days ago and I really didn’t want to sleep in a hotel bed, I wanted to sleep at home. So, I’m home, which makes it better.
And you’re back with the USA National Team for the first time in over a year:
Whew! It feels good. I feel like I haven’t been here in forever. There are a lot of familiar faces and a lot of new faces, but the system is still the same. Everybody’s coming out, working hard, talking and making sure we’re all good teammates to each other.
When you first stepped on the practice court, you were still in college. What was that like and what’s it like today?
When I first got here with USA Basketball, it was really eye-opening. Everything was fast. You’re trying to keep up and of course you looked up to people, the veterans, so you didn’t want to mess up. You wanted to do everything that was expected of you. Now, the goal is still the same. You go out there and work hard, you do whatever is needed for the team.
Did anyone ask you for advice?
I had a chance to talk to (University of Miami’s) Mykea (Gray) and Beatrice (Mompremier) when we were here waiting for the bus to arrive. They pretty much were asking what the expectations were and how was Dawn and stuff like that. I told them pretty much to be yourself, play your game. It’s going to be fast but don’t rush your game, even though that’s easier said than done. Score when you need to score, pass when you need to pass.
Arike Ogunbowale (Dallas Wings)
On being back out with the USA National Team after first being with the group a year ago when she was still in college?
I feel like after this WNBA season I’ve really grown. I feel a lot more mature being here with a lot of the vets and being able to pick up some stuff. So, I definitely feel a lot more comfortable.
Does it help knowing the system a little bit from last year?
Yeah, having worked with her before, you know how she is, you know how she coaches. Jumping back into it after a year of not being out here, it was an easy transition.
Are you looking to continue to build on your WNBA season this week and into the AmeriCup?
Yeah. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing the whole season. I’m just trying to bring what I can to the team.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On the short training the team has ahead of the AmeriCup
You know, it’s what we do best. We cut and paste. We get commitments from all these guys who take time out of their busy schedules, whether they’re a WNBA player, college player, whether you finished a week ago or whether you finished 48 hours ago. I think the commitment to this team has always been our priority. You see that with all these players here, people are flying in today, tomorrow, we take pride in making sure they can put together the best team to go and compete.
What do you think of all the younger players out here?
I was just saying what a great opportunity it is for them to come out here and play against people they’ve probably watched for a long time. I thought the college kids looked great. They fit right in, they competed. And with these camps, you just keep getting better every day. You get a little more comfortable with what we’re trying to do on the court, with the people around you. I think they did a great job.
How will this help you heading into the November training?
It helps. It gets you back into the USA Basketball mind frame, what we try to get done on the court. And even today, I didn’t participate much, but to be able to go over some of the things that we did really well when we were in Spain (for the 2018 World Cup), it’s like riding a bike. You need a couple trigger points to get you back on track and for Sue and I, as well as Skylar and Sylvia, that’s important.