Reeve Focuses on X’s and O’s at USA Women’s National Team Camp
USA National Team members got together in Minneapolis for the last time before the fall World Cup.
Cheryl Reeve observed a lot of the on-court action, watching a dozen women’s basketball players run drills at The Courts at Mayo Clinic Square. But she stopped play during a 5-on-5 portion of practice by saying “details, details” to get the players’ attention.
Reeve, the 2021-24 USA Basketball Women’s National Team head coach, addressed the players in attendance for the 2022 USA National Team training camp held March 29 through April 2 in Minneapolis. Having limited time to work together as a team before the WNBA season and the FIBA World Cup in the fall can make it tough. But when the players are on the floor together, there are aspects to work on that Reeve referred to as “non-negotiables.”
“So in those moments when we’re not doing those things I know we need to be, that’s when you speak up and let them know those things,” Reeve said.
The camp was an important evaluation tool for the status of the team ahead of the FIBA World Cup set for September.
Reeve, coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, is no stranger to coaching or USA Basketball. She’s served as a USA National Team assistant from 2014-2021. This is her first time stepping into the role of head coach for the USA, and Reeve notices a difference. Her last eight years with USA Basketball were easy in that supporting role, she said.
“You make suggestions,” Reeve said. “You can turn it off as an assistant coach. As a head coach, you can’t turn it off. You’re always thinking about what they need. What they need to hear. What you need to be for them that day.”
Players in camp included: Ariel Atkins, Allisha Gray, Chelsea Gray, Dearica Hamby, Angel McCoughtry, Kelsey Mitchell, Kelsey Plum, Aerial Powers, Azurá Stevens, Breanna Stewart, Courtney Williams and A’ja Wilson.
The camp went well overall, Reeve said, adding that she told the athletes their approach was good and open-minded. The environment, energy and effort levels, and most of the time the execution, were all well done from the players, according to Reeve.
While the selection committee was in attendance to focus on the personnel aspects, Reeve said she was more locked in on the X’s and O’s during camp, looking at how things should go for the team schematically. She needed to look at those details and find the takeaways from camp that will help the team see success when it comes back together in September.
“Sometimes it’s hard when you don’t have a game to get ready for to keep the players interested,” Reeve said. “I thought it was a very productive four days of camp.”
The camp culminated with a practice/scrimmage open to the public on April 2. Plus, the athletes took in the atmosphere and excitement of the NCAA women’s Final Four in Minneapolis. Five of the players in camp could root on their alma maters: Allisha Gray and Wilson for South Carolina, McCoughtry for Louisville, and Stevens and Stewart for UConn.
Stewart had the chance to meet with the UConn team Wednesday ahead of its semifinal game on Friday night.
“It’s like a family, obviously, at UConn,” Stewart said. “Whenever I get a chance to see them and just rekindle with one another, it’s great. I’m here to obviously represent USA Basketball, but I’m also here to support UConn.”
Stewart is one of four players at the camp with World Cup and Olympic gold medals to her name for USA Basketball. She’s able to draw on her experience to potentially help fill a leadership role with a team that’s come together looking a bit different than rosters of the past, with a mix of new players and returners.
No matter who was on the floor for camp, it’s about making sure they’re competing, Stewart said.
“But we’re also having fun and enjoying it,” Stewart said. “Because sometimes that gets lost in the want and the desire to continue to win gold medals all the time.”
Even just being back on the floor is a bit of a bonus for McCoughtry, who at 35 was the only player in camp in her 30s. The five-time WNBA All-Star signed in February as a free agent with the Lynx. But McCoughtry has battled injuries for a while; she missed the 2021 WNBA season after tearing her ACL in a preseason game. She also missed part of the 2018 season and all of 2019.
Being healthy at training camp with the USA, in the home practice facility for her WNBA team in the Lynx, plus seeing her Louisville team in the Final Four is “pretty much a fairy tale” McCoughtry’s living out, she said.
Playing for Reeve is helpful, too, McCoughtry said, adding that the coach knows what it takes for the USA during camp and beyond.
“I think it’s just about getting together and playing,” McCoughtry said. “Just feeling everybody out, getting the chemistry… and enjoying some of the festivities around town.”
Stewart acknowledged how quickly the World Cup will come up after this WNBA season, with this most recent camp being the team’s last one until then. Playing for Reeve in her head coach role this time, Stewart said it’s about following Reeve’s lead to learn her style and understand what Reeve wants from the team as quickly as possible.
“I think that Cheryl deserves this role,” Stewart said. “And she’s embracing it.”
Reeve said she felt good about the camp and the status of the team moving forward as everyone heads to their respective WNBA teams. The selection committee will study the WNBA season and have “a lot of work ahead of it,” Reeve said.
“Our league has a lot of good players, so getting down to just 12 is awfully difficult,” Reeve said. “I’m excited for them to go have great seasons and let the chips fall where they might.”
Heather Rule is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.