USA National Team Veterans Look Back as AmeriCup Training Camp Begins
Ahead of the FIBA AmeriCup for Women, which will take place Sept. 22-30 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the USA took to the court at the University of Miami Tuesday with some new faces in the mix for a spot on the AmeriCup roster.
In surveying the court, there was no shortage of players who were in awe of some of the legendary athletes on the training camp roster. USA veterans Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles and Diana Taurasi, who have a combined 24 Olympic and World Cup gold medals between them, were there alongside six collegians, two of whom still have three years remaining in NCAA Division I play.
The four mainstay USA athletes have more than just experience in common.
Each of them donned the red USA National Team jersey in at least one camp prior to graduating college and being drafted into the WNBA, and they know what it’s like to be starstruck on a team of future hall of famers.
“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,” said Fowles, who was first called up to the USA National Team on the heels of her sophomore season at LSU and aided the squad to a title at the Australia-hosted 2006 Opals World Challenge (pictured above), while having the opportunity to practice daily alongside the likes of Katie Smith and Tina Thompson. “They pretty much were asking what the expectations were and how Dawn was 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.”
“What a great opportunity it is for them to come out here and play against people they’ve probably watched for a long time,” said Taurasi, who stepped onto the court with Lisa Leslie, Staley and Sheryl Swoopes for the first time in April 2004. “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.”
Arike Ogunbowale, who was named to the 2019 WNBA All-Rookie Team, had her first opportunity with the USA National Team with a year left in college. She found it beneficial through the season and in her return to the senior level.
“I feel a lot more mature being here with a lot of the vets and being able to pick up some stuff,” said Ogunbowale. “So, I definitely feel a lot more comfortable. Jumping back into it after a year of not being out here, it was an easy transition.”
The importance of blending veterans with USA National Team hopefuls is something that’s never lost on USA head coach Dawn Staley, who is looking forward to a successful training camp this week and AmeriCup competition beginning Sunday.
“That’s the culture of USA Basketball,” said Staley, who has played alongside and coached numorous newcomers during her quarter of a century with the USA National Team. “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.”
Fans in the U.S. can watch the team at the FIBA AmeriCup from Sept. 22-30 on ESPN+. For a complete schedule, go HERE.