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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Why Caitlin Clark may pose a dilemma for Staff USA on the Olympics Specific Instances

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USA Basketball will likely be searching for its eighth consecutive Olympic gold medal this summer time with step one coming on the Olympic qualifying match in Antwerp, Belgium, from Feb. 8-11. The 12-player roster for that match would be the first approximation of the staff that can defend the People’ gold medal in Paris.

Primarily based on the 18 gamers who’ve been invited to the nationwide staff camp from Feb. 2-4 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the committee has a terrifically difficult process to pick out that last roster, a choice that can seemingly be additional difficult by the present collegians — primarily Caitlin Clark, however USA Basketball veterans Paige Bueckers and Cameron Brink may additionally consider right here — who flip professional on the finish of the 2023-24 season.

The ultimate roster will finally make an announcement about what the committee values: youth and the long run or expertise and confirmed success. USA Basketball has usually balanced young and old on the worldwide staff in order that the youthful gamers can carry the torch and protect the tradition. Together with — or not together with — Clark poses a novel dilemma with the wealth of choices earlier than the committee.

On the other finish of the spectrum from Clark is Diana Taurasi, considered one of eight Olympians from Tokyo in 2021 who’s again within the nationwide staff pool. Taurasi is searching for to develop into the primary basketball participant of both gender to compete in six Olympics. She would even be the oldest basketball Olympian ever and the third American girl of any sport to take part in six video games. Assuming Taurasi is wholesome, she is a lock to return to the roster. The 41-year-old even participated within the USA Basketball faculty barnstorming tour in November in opposition to Tennessee and Duke, which presumably was not obligatory for a participant along with her pedigree.

Taurasi is joined by Ariel Atkins, Napheesa Collier, Chelsea Grey, Brittney Griner, Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson from the Tokyo staff. Atkins is the one a kind of returnees — aside from Griner, who has extenuating circumstances, and is one other lock to go well with up in crimson, white and blue if she so chooses — whose play has declined for the reason that final Olympiad, however contemplating she additionally performed for the USA in the course of the 2022 FIBA World Cup, Atkins will seemingly be prioritized by the committee. Nonetheless, her standing as a 2024 Olympian might be probably the most tenuous of those eight gamers.

That leaves at most 5, and sure 4, spots for brand spanking new blood, and the competitors is fierce. Kahleah Copper, Sabrina Ionescu, Betnijah Laney, Kelsey Plum and Alyssa Thomas have been all moreover a part of the World Cup squad. Ionescu averaged the fewest minutes in Australia, however she, Thomas and Plum all have been All-WNBA choices throughout the previous two seasons, with the latter two ending top-five in MVP voting. Plum’s historical past with the three-on-three staff must also give her a leg up with the committee, which brings us to her fellow gold medalists in that sport’s debut in 2021: Allisha Grey and Jackie Younger. Each gamers appear too good to be left off of the roster, particularly Younger, however that’s at all times the case with the American nationwide staff.

All seven of these gamers can be affordable choices for the Olympics, and that doesn’t even embrace Aliyah Boston, Rhyne Howard and Arike Ogunbowale — three of the youthful camp invitations. All Boston has carried out is put collectively one of the vital adorned faculty careers in latest reminiscence, plus gather a number of gold medals for the U.S. at youth ranges, whereas incomes rookie of the 12 months honors and beginning within the WNBA All-Star Sport. Frankly, Boston looks like one other lock, filling within the sixth frontcourt spot behind Wilson, Stewart, Griner, Thomas and Collier. Howard and Ogunbowale — each All-Stars who can be the main scorers on nearly another nationwide staff on this planet — are most likely on the surface trying in till the 2028 Olympics.

Then, there’s the youth query. The No. 1 picks within the 2004, 2008 and 2016 WNBA drafts made the Olympic groups as rookies (Nneka Ogwumike’s omission in 2012 was curious then, and her absence from subsequent Olympic rosters has made that snub much more ridiculous in hindsight), and a equally loaded draft class is on deck to hold that custom. The children take their place on the finish of the roster after which develop into the long run leaders. Wilson has talked about studying from Taurasi and Sue Chicken how you can set the usual, which she put into observe together with Stewart on the final World Cup.

It might make sense for Clark to be the most recent ingénue to take her place as Staff USA’s twelfth participant, however with the 2004 No. 1 decide Taurasi nonetheless kicking, there might not be sufficient house. Maybe the committee will take solace in Boston representing the present era, whereas a cohort of older guards compete within the backcourt. Deciding between Atkins, Copper, Allisha Grey, Ionescu, Ogunbowale, Plum and Younger for what figures to be three spots will likely be troublesome sufficient with out including Clark to the combination.

Then once more, the Caitlin Clark impact is actual. How may USA Basketball select to not capitalize on the rabid recognition of one of many recreation’s greatest stars when whoever takes her place doesn’t determine to play many minutes anyway? The Olympics are the most important showcase of ladies’s basketball worldwide. A participant like Clark belongs on that stage if the choice committee desires to construct off the momentum the game is producing stateside.

There will likely be loads of superstars on the nationwide staff whether or not Clark makes the minimize or not. And the U.S. will likely be prohibitive favorites no matter what mixture of those gamers fits up in Paris. The particular composition of this roster, nonetheless, will reveal what the committee prioritizes, be it nationwide staff historical past, home success, stability of youth/veterans or probably the most marketable names. All of these potentialities are on the desk.

(Photograph of Caitlin Clark: Marc Piscotty / Icon Sportswire through Getty Photographs)

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