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2022 FIBA Women's World Cup

New Voices Step Into Leadership Roles With U.S. Women’s Team

  • Author:
    Bob Reinert, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Sep 9, 2022


With the likes of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles no longer on the scene, a new set of leaders will likely emerge at this week’s U.S. Women’s National Team training camp in Las Vegas.


Players vying for spots on the team that will travel to the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, which begins Sept. 22 in Sydney, will have to step into the breach left behind by such basketball icons.


“Filling the void of those types of players and the things that they’ve done for USAB, it’s not just one or two people. It’s a collective effort,” said guard Kayla McBride, a nine-year WNBA veteran who is looking to play in her first international tournament since 2010. “We know what kind of pressure and weight that comes with. It’s a day-by-day process, and coach (Cheryl Reeve) talked about that the first day is that we have to embrace the journey, and that comes with it. Finding our new identity, finding our new leadership. I think that’s something we’re really looking forward to, into growing into.”


A handful of players are already in Vegas for camp, and more are expected to join the group after the WNBA playoffs. Among the candidates to step into greater leadership roles this week are Olympic gold medalists such as Angel McCoughtry, Ariel Atkins and Stefanie Dolson.


“Anytime USA Basketball calls, I try to answer and be a part of it,” said Atkins, a guard who came off the bench for the U.S. at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. “It’s just the tradition of it and what it means to put this jersey on and not only represent the country but represent the women who came before you and put this jersey on. It’s something that’s way bigger than me.”


Coming into came as one of the more experienced members of the team, Atkins, who plays for the Washington Mystics, is ready to step up.


“Definitely have to be more vocal,” she said. “Can’t really just be in the background. And not being afraid to step up, honestly.”


Dolson, who won her Olympic gold medal last year in 3x3, also spoke of how privileged she felt to be here and wanting to do her part for younger players such as Shakira Austin, Aliyah Boston, Rhyne Howard and NaLyssa Smith.


“It’s always about finding your place within all these amazing players,” said Dolson, 30, who also won the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup with the U.S. 5x5 team. “For me, as an older player, I’m just trying to move the ball, make sure people are flowing and we’re building that chemistry on the court because we don’t have a lot of time before games.”


The Olympians aren’t the only veteran presences in camp.


Guard Diamond DeShields, who also played on the U.S. team that won the 2019 AmeriCup, offered a bit of advice for those younger players in camp.


“Just push yourself. Be a sponge,” DeShields, 27, said. “Get something out of this, and just try to learn from those around you. We’ve got some vets here. We’ve got Olympians here. Just try to learn and grow.


“Whether you make the team or not, to come out here and be on the floor and be able to learn and just take in this energy from people that you’ve been competing against, there’s a lot of learning that you can get from being here at these training camps.”


At 24, Sabrina Ionescu is one of the younger players in camp, though she has international experience in both 5x5 and 3x3 for USA Basketball. After two years away because of injury, the point guard is eager to step up as a floor general.


“I kind of understand what it is that I need to do day in and day out and how I can continue to elevate my teammates and also learn from them,” Ionescu said. “I think coming into this camp, I kind of understood that and want to take on that role, as well as continuing to listen and learn from a lot of the veterans that have won gold medals and have been in the position that I’ve been.


“Having confidence in yourself and your ability is something that all leaders need to have. I’m still continuing to learn. And there’s going to be ups and downs in leadership.”


Another player willing to step into that leadership void is Betnijah Laney. The 28-year-old guard/forward is seeking to make her first USAB team since the 2010 FIBA U17 World Cup.


“I think it’s always kind of been a part of my nature to just make sure that I’m talking, communicating and leading by example, trying help people where I can and just being a great teammate,” Laney said. “So, if that’s what they want me to do, then absolutely. But I’m going to just continue to be me, which tends to be that vocal person, which is to go out and play hard, which is to try and lead by example in all that I do.”


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