COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Including 15 athletes who have earned a combined 41 Olympic and FIBA World Championship gold medals, 25 of the nation's top women's basketball players have been named as finalists for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team. The 25 finalists were selected by the USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee, which will select the official 12-member U.S. Olympic Team later this year.
The University of Connecticut is heavily represented among the 25 finalists, which include Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tina Charles (New York Liberty), Stefanie Dolson (Washington Mystics), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut). Stewart is the only collegiate athlete to be selected as a finalist.
The USA Basketball Women's National Team training camp on Feb. 21-23 will be held at the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center on the Storrs campus. Athletes taking part in the minicamp, which is expected to be the final training before the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team is selected, will be announced at a later date and will come from the pool of finalists.
"Naming the Olympic Team finalists is another step in our selection process," said Carol Callan, USA Basketball Women's National Team Director and chair of the USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee. "Because of the quality and talent in the USA National Team pool, every time we pare the list it is a difficult task. Yet, we eventually have to get down to a 12-member team, so we conscientiously look at the present goal of winning a gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games with an eye to sustaining our success in the future. This list of finalists is a mix of veterans, youth, international savvy and USA Basketball experience.
"What adds to the challenge of picking a team is the devotion and commitment all of our athletes have to our USA National Team and representing their country, especially given the year-round play many of them have in the WNBA and on overseas teams."
"I think the committee has a tough decision ahead of it," said USA and Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, who has directed the USA National Team to an overall 23-0 record and gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Championships. "When I look at this list of athletes, we could split them down the middle and have two very competitive teams. We have a great mix of gold medalists and players who are hungry to play in their first Olympics. There is versatility at all positions. Our posts are the strongest we've seen in years, we have guys who can shoot, guys who can defend, and I'm just happy I don't have to make the decision as to who will be playing in Rio."
Finalists for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team include: Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Tina Charles (New York Liberty), Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky), Skylar Diggins (Dallas Wings), Stefanie Dolson (Washington Mystics), Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Briann January (Indiana Fever), Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks), Kayla McBride (San Antonio Stars), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Chiney Ogwumike (Connecticut Sun), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks), Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Stars), Odyssey Sims (Dallas Wings), Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx).
Additionally, Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm), who took part in the USA National Team's minicamp in Las Vegas this past May, was added to the USA National Team pool and is among the 25 finalists. The No. 1 pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft and the 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Loyd is a two-time world champion with USA Basketball. She helped the 2010 USA U17 World Championship Team collect gold with an 8-0 record, and she returned as a member of the 2014 USA 3x3 World Championship Team that swept its competition for a 9-0 record and gold medal at the 2014 FIBA 3x3 World Championship.
"I think her addition is because of some of the success she had during the summer playing in Seattle," said Auriemma on Loyd's selection to the USA National Team pool and list of U.S. Olympic Team finalists. "There is a concerted effort to get as many guards into this training camp as possible because we can't just think about now, we also have to think about the future. She is one of the best young players in the league and deserves to be there."
Included on the roster of finalists are three-time Olympic gold medalists Bird, Catchings and Taurasi (2004, 2008, 2012); two-time Olympic gold medalists Augustus, Fowles and Parker (2008, 2012); and Charles, McCoughtry, Moore and Whalen, who have each earned one Olympic gold medal (2012).
Further, Bird is a four-time USA World Championship Team member and three-time FIBA World Championship gold medalist; Catchings, Charles, McCoughtry, Moore, Taurasi and Whalen have captured two World Championship gold medals; Fowles earned gold at the 2010 Worlds; and Augustus, Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, Sims and Stewart earned a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Championship. Additionally, Augustus, Bird, Catchings, Parker and Taurasi returned with a bronze medal from the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
Last October Bird, Delle Donne, Dolson, Dupree, Griner, McCoughtry, Parker, Robinson, Stewart and Vandersloot participated in the USA National Team's European tour and aided the U.S. to a 4-0 record against a trio of European professional clubs and the Italian National Team.
Auriemma will be assisted through the 2016 Olympic Games by DePaul University's Doug Bruno, the Minnesota Lynx' Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina's Dawn Staley.
The final, 12-player 2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team will be selected by the USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee. Chaired by Callan, the committee includes: WNBA appointees Reneé Brown, WNBA chief of basketball operations and player relations; Dan Hughes, head coach and general manager of the San Antonio Stars; and Chris Sienko, vice president and general manager of the Connecticut Sun; and three-time Olympic and two-time FIBA World Championship gold medalist Katie Smith, who played in nearly 200 games for USA Basketball from 1993-2008 and serves as the athlete representative.
2016 Olympic Games
The 2016 Olympic Games will be held Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro. A total of 12 nations will compete in the Olympic women's basketball competition. In addition to host Brazil and the USA, which earned its berth by virtue of winning gold at the 2014 FIBA World Championship, the gold-medal winning teams from each of FIBA's five zones have qualified for Rio, including Australia (FIBA Oceania), Canada (FIBA Americas), Japan (FIBA Asia), Senegal (FIBA Africa) and Serbia (FIBA Europe).
The top-placing teams in each zone tournament -- not including the champions -- qualified for the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (June 13-19, 2016 @ Nantes, France), and those teams include: Cameroon and Nigeria from FIBA Africa; Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela from FIBA Americas; China and South Korea from FIBA Asia; Belarus, France, Spain and Turkey from FIBA Europe; and New Zealand from FIBA Oceania.
U.S. Olympic women's basketball teams have earned a record seven gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal, and are 58-3 all-time in Olympic competition. The 2016 U.S. team will enter Rio riding a 41-game Olympic winning streak that dates back to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics bronze medal game.
Since the inception of the 1995-96 USA Basketball Women's National Team program, the USA National Team, in addition to its record five-straight Olympic gold medals, has captured four FIBA World Championship gold medals, one FIBA World Championship bronze medal and one FIBA Americas Championship gold medal, while compiling a remarkable 86-1 record for a .989 winning percentage in those events. Further, USA National Teams in exhibition contests since 1995 boast of a 186-15 record (.925 winning percentage).
2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team finalists notes and stats:
- USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year: Seimone Augustus (2003), Tina Charles (2009), Maya Moore (2014), Breanna Stewart (2013, 2011), and Diana Taurasi (2012, 2010, 2006).
- Olympic gold medalists: Augustus (2012, 2008), Bird (2012, 2008, 2004), Catchings (2012, 2008, 2004), Charles (2012) Fowles (2012, 2008), McCoughtry (2012), Moore (2012), Parker (2012, 2008), Taurasi (2012, 2008, 2004), and Whalen (2012).
- FIBA World Championship gold medalists: Augustus (2014), Bird (2014, 2010, 2002), Catchings (2002, 2010), Charles (2010, 2014), Dupree (2010, 2014), Fowles (2010), Griner (2014), McCoughtry (2010, 2014), Moore (2010, 2014), Nneka Ogwumike (2014), Sims (2014), Stewart (2014), Taurasi (2010, 2014), and Whalen (2010, 2014).
- FIBA World Championship bronze medalists: Augustus (2006), Bird (2006), Catchings (2006), Parker (2006), and Taurasi (2006).
- 14 finalists played for a USA Basketball team before college: Catchings (1996), Charles (2005), Diggins (2007), Dolson (2010), Fowles (2003), Lavender (2006), Loyd (2010), McBride (2010), Moore (2006), Chiney Ogwumike (2010), Nneka Ogwumike (2007), Parker (2003), Stewart (2009), and Taurasi (2000).
- FIBA Americas Championship gold medalists: Augustus (2007), Bird (2007), Parker (2007), and Taurasi (2007).
- Olympic, FIBA World Championship, WNBA and NCAA champions: Bird, Catchings, Moore, and Taurasi.
- USA Basketball gold medalists: all but January and Vandersloot.
- Record-setting streak: With five-straight gold medals, the U.S. owns the longest Olympic gold medal streak ever recorded for a women's traditional team sport. Canada (ice hockey) and Russia (synchronized swimming) have each strung together four consecutive gold medals. The only other nations' teams to surpass five in a row are India (men's field hockey) with six and the USA (men's basketball) with seven.
- The USA owns an overall 58-3 record in Olympic competition and is riding a 41-game winning streak that dates back to the 1992 bronze medal game.
- All 12 WNBA teams are represented, led by the Minnesota Lynx with four; followed by the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury with three; Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings, Indiana Fever, San Antonio Stars and Seattle Storm with two; and Atlanta Dream, Connecticut Sun, New York Liberty, and Washington Mystics with one apiece.
- Fourteen colleges are represented, led by University of Connecticut with six; followed by the University of Notre Dame with three; Baylor University, Louisiana State University, Stanford University and University of Tennessee with two each; and Arizona State University, University of Delaware, Gonzaga University, University of Louisville, University of Minnesota, The Ohio State University, University of Oklahoma, and Temple University with one each.