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Caitlin Clark left off U.S. Olympic team; A’Ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi headline roster

By Shams Charania, Joe Vardon, Mark Puleo, Ben Pickman and Chantel Jennings

Indiana Fever rookie sensation Caitlin Clark has been left off Team USA’s 12-player women’s basketball roster for the upcoming Summer Olympics. The official roster was announced Tuesday by USA Basketball.

The list indicates a preference for veterans with the selection of A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Alyssa Thomas, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Sabrina Ionescu, Chelsea Gray and Kahleah Copper . Americans have won gold at every Olympic Games since 1996, and this distinguished list of All-Stars appears to be one of the favorites in Paris.

Seven of the 12 players have Olympic five-on-five experience and two others have 3×3 experience, so there will only be three first-time Olympians – Thomas, Copper and Ionescu. Selected players recently began receiving their U.S. Olympic team jerseys.

Taurasi, who will be 42 when the Games begin, will compete in her sixth Olympics, breaking an all-time international record she held with five other players, men and women. His Phoenix Mercury teammate, Griner, competed in two previous Olympics.

Stewart, a two-time WNBA MVP and two-time Finals MVP, will be competing in her third Olympics. In Tokyo in 2021, she averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game and was named the Olympic tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Wilson, another two-time WNBA MVP, scored 16.5 points per game in Tokyo in her Olympic debut and is off to a hot start this WNBA season, averaging 28 points and 12.3 rebounds per game.

Clark, Brionna Jones and Aliyah Boston would likely be replacements if any of the 12 cannot play, sources briefed on the discussion said. Boston, Clark’s Fever teammate and last year’s WNBA Rookie of the Year, is another young talent notably missing from the roster.

Clark is coming off a historic NCAA career at Iowa, where she became Division I’s all-time leading scorer and won two National Player of the Year awards. On Friday, she made seven 3-pointers and tied her WNBA career high with 30 points in a win over the Washington Mystics.

In March, Clark was one of 14 players to receive an invitation to the U.S. national team’s final training camp before the Summer Games. She was unable to attend because she was playing with Iowa in the Final Four, while several players who had dedicated years of service to the U.S. national program before her were in attendance. The Americans have held periodic training camps for national team hopefuls for years. Although they are not mandatory, they go a long way in helping the selection committee decide which 12 will represent the most dominant basketball program – men’s or women’s.

The list was selected by the women’s basketball committee, which includes South Carolina coach and former Team USA coach Dawn Staley, three-time Olympian and LSU assistant Seimone Augustus, two-time Olympian and coach of ‘Old Dominion Delisha Milton-Jones, Connecticut Sun President Jennifer. Rizzotti and Bethany Donaphin, WNBA league operations manager.

With four members of the Las Vegas Aces, this 2024 Olympic roster is reminiscent of that of 2016. In 2016, a third of the team was made up of players from the Minnesota Lynx – Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Augustus and Sylvia Fowles – in the middle of the franchise’s historic run of four WNBA titles in seven seasons. In a recent episode of Athleticism As part of the Women’s Basketball Show, Augustus highlighted how including multiple players from the same team can benefit Team USA, which doesn’t have as much practice time together for its final 12 games before the Olympic Games. The 2024 roster won’t speak together until the week before the July All-Star Game.

Is Clark’s absence a surprise?

It’s not entirely surprising that she didn’t make the team. The reality is that the U.S. women’s basketball team, winners of seven consecutive Olympic gold medals, is the greatest collection of basketball talent in the world. Many of them played together in the WNBA or Olympic cycles. Clark, due to her college season, never participated in a senior national team camp this cycle, which may have sparked questions about how she would fit in on the field. The roster is full of continuity – think of the four Aces players and three Mercury players on the roster.

It’s also hard to imagine that her slow start to the WNBA season didn’t impact the decision. Although Clark has had some highs – on Friday night, for example, she became the first player in WNBA history with 200 points and 75 assists in her first 12 games – she also leads the WNBA with 67 turnovers – 29 more than any other player. His 3-point shooting rate of 32.7 percent is also lower than many expected. Yet by excluding Clark from the list, the Olympic committee appears to be accepting lower television ratings than if Clark were on the team. — Ben Pickman, women’s basketball writer

The list is geared towards players with professional experience

What makes Clark’s omission – and that of his Boston Fever teammate – surprising, however, is that the Olympic team has often featured younger players who are unlikely to be major contributors at short term but which are considered as the future of the program. That’s not the case this year with Ionescu, 26, as the youngest player.

Of course, this year’s roster is loaded with talent. The 2028 Olympic roster will almost certainly be the favorite for the 2028 Olympics as well. So even without Clark, Boston or Atlanta Dream guard Rhyne Howard on the roster this year, it’s not like the United States was behind the competition. Still, the selection committee’s roster-building philosophy is remarkable. -Pickman

Could Clark still participate?

One of the questions that remains unanswered is whether Gray will be available for the Olympics. She suffered a lower leg injury in Game 3 of the 2023 WNBA Finals and has yet to play this WNBA season. However, she attended the U.S. Olympic training camp in Cleveland and, if healthy, will likely be the starting point guard. In theory, Clark could potentially replace Gray or replace him if further injuries arise before the Olympics. However, once the action begins, Clark, Jones or Boston cannot participate, even if a player becomes injured during the competition. -Pickman

Required reading

An earlier version of this story misstated whether USA Basketball would name replacements for its women’s Olympic team. Although three players are considered likely replacements in case one of the 12 team members is unable to play, no official replacements are expected to be publicly disclosed in advance.

(Photo: Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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