After Injury-Shortened WNBA Season, Layshia Clarendon Relished WNT Opportunity
The Connecticut Sun guard played in all four exhibitions as part of the USA’s fall training segment.
Layshia Clarendon is a pretty cool customer. And that certainly helps her deal with the highs and lows of being a professional athlete.
The former University of California, Berkeley star’s latest setback came when she dislocated her right ankle, which ended her season with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun after nine games. This fall she was back in action, this time with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team on the college portion of the November training as the team prepares for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“I was really happy with where I was at,” the 5-foot-9 point guard said, “and it’s a really good opportunity to get back on the court confident moving into next season.”
Clarendon played in all four exhibitions, dishing out 2.3 assists in 13.3 minutes per game for the star-studded team.
“I felt really strong after my injury,” said Clarendon, a native of San Bernardino, California. “My biggest concern was just being in good enough shape, because it’s hard to replicate that (type of exertion), but I actually felt pretty good cardio-wise, too. And so, I think so much about playing for USA Basketball is knowing what role to play, and I think I fit in really well and did a good job facilitating offense and bringing the kind of energy on defense. I was really happy with my performance overall.”
Due to her injury status entering the fall camp, Clarendon did not accompany the national team to the FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Argentina, where it went 3-0. The U.S., winners of the last six Olympic gold medals, already is qualified for Tokyo but also will participate in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament from Feb. 2-10, 2020.
Getting back on the court was a relief.
The injury derailed a potential WNBA championship for Clarendon. Acquired by Connecticut in 2018 in a midseason trade from Atlanta, she missed the Sun’s run to the 2019 WNBA Finals, where it lost in Game 5 to the Washington Mystics.
“That was definitely like a bittersweet experience to not be playing, but obviously to be a part of it, is the best way to explain it,” she said. “It’s just, you know, the heartbreak and the disappointment and anger that I feel like something was taken from me with my injury, which is no one’s fault. Injuries just happened in this league. But also, you know, the joy and excitement for Connecticut to be on the road to try and get their first WNBA title.
“So those parallel feelings always intermingle the entire time, where you’re really happy for everyone around you, but you’re also really sad not to be out there.”
Clarendon doesn’t play overseas during the WNBA offseason, but she does have some very important agenda items to check off.
As first vice president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, she is working on a new collective bargaining agreement. Once that is resolved, she will be looking to sign a new contact as she is a free agent. In the meantime, she also is an analyst on the Pac-12 Network.
The next USA training camp will begin in Hartford, Connecticut, ahead of collegiate exhibition games against University of Connecticut on Jan. 27 and the University of Louisville on Feb. 2.
After her experience in the recent training segment, Clarendon is hoping to be called back for one of the next portions of the national team’s preparations for Tokyo. She played on the U.S. team that won the 2018 FIBA World Cup, averaging 2.2 points, 2.5 assists and 2.0 rebounds in six games, including one start. Clarendon previously had played with the USA at the 2009 FIBA U19 World Cup, earning her first gold medal.
The big dream, though, is being selected for the Olympic team.
“To make the Olympic team would be a great dream come true,” Clarendon said. “It’s a goal that’s been on my list since I was younger and since I played with the 19-and-under team in Thailand in my year going into college. So being so close and getting (to play) with the world championship team, even that is a goal in of itself, because to play with the senior national team is a big jump from playing the 19-and-under team.
“To get to that high level, it would just be a dream come true. It’s something that’s really hard to do, and it’s really hard to sustain and you just have to fight and scratch and claw.”
Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, California. He is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.