The members of Team USA Women’s basketball reunited for a training camp at the University of South Carolina for the first time in almost a year. Team USA women’s basketball had a dominant winning momentum prior to the pandemic shut down, having gone undefeated in the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup and the FIBA Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and only dropping one of their exhibition games against college teams.
Head coach Dawn Staley was excited to coach Team USA Basketball while coaching the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks. She held practice sessions for both teams on Saturday as the Gamecocks prepared to play against the UCONN Huskies on Monday.
“We got the best players in the world and the best players in the country that I get to work with,” Staley said. “This is basketball utopia for me.”
In 2017, Staley became the first Black woman to coach a national team. She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist who was the flag bearer for the USA National Team for the 2004 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Staley hopes to take some nuances from the pro players and instill them into her South Carolina players.
Team USA is looking for their seventh consecutive gold medal in women’s basketball, Minnesota Lynx center, Sylvia Fowles, helped them win their last three golds.
This was the first time she practiced on court with contact since the 2020 season, she struggled with a right calf injury throughout her time in the WNBA Wubble.
“I was doing a lot of training prior to this with non-contact,” Fowles said. “To see myself come out there and play with the pace that these young ladies was playing with was a good marker for me.”
One of the new faces on Team USA Women’s basketball is reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson. Her career has come full circle with her reuniting with her college coach Staley. Last month, South Carolina commemorated Wilson’s achievements with a statue. For Wilson, the statue is “a true honor.”
“It means a lot honestly, especially when you have greats looking at it and just saying congratulations,” Wilson said. “Its not for me and my accomplishments, it’s to show that anybody’s fully capable of doing what they want to do when they put their mind to it.”
For Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike, there is not much of a difference between playing for Los Angeles and playing for Team USA. For competing with Team USA means return back to the basics of basketball.
“Team USA knows what I’m capable of, but what are we willing to do to maintain that championship culture?” Ogwumike said. “That doesn’t mean that every single person out there is taking every single shot, it’s being able to adhere to a system, understand what we’re trying to do, the bigger picture.”
For the Summer Olympics, 12 women’s basketball teams will compete. They will be divided into three teams for preliminary play, then be seeded for tournament-style competition. On February 2, FIBA drew Team USA to be in a pool with Nigeria, Japan and France.
Team USA will battle Nigeria in their first preliminary game on July 27.