Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Quotes: 2016 USA Women’s National Team on practicing together for the first time

Published on July 24, 2016

By

Breanna Stewart. Photo: USA Basketball.

Breanna Stewart. Photo: USA Basketball.

This weekend the 2016 USA Women’s National Team kicked off its quest for a sixth-straight gold medal. The team is in Los Angeles practicing Saturday and Sunday before facing the USA Basketball Women’s Select Team in an exhibition Monday night at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center (7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET). The team will play three more exhibition contests before heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Summer Games.

The Olympic competition features 12 national teams competing Aug. 6-20. The U.S. has earned a record seven gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal. The senior national team  is 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.

Team USA women’s basketball schedule is below as well as quotes from Saturday and Sunday practices.

Televised on NBA TV, Streamed on Facebook (facebook.com/usabasketball/)
Mon., July 25
10 p.m. ET
USA Women’s National Team vs. USA Basketball Select Team
Vince Cellini, Lisa Leslie, Kristen Ledlow
Wed., July 27
7:30 p.m. ET
USA Women’s National Team vs. France
Cellini, Leslie, Ledlow
Fri., July 29
7 p.m. ET
USA Women’s National Team vs. Canada (Roster)
Cellini, Leslie, Ledlow
Sun., July 31
4 p.m. ET
USA Women’s National Team vs. Australia (Roster)
Cellini, Leslie, Ledlow

Saturday, June 23, 2016 Practice Quotes

USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)
Are you happy that you finally have the team together and can get to work?
Just the opportunity to be around them. They’re such a good group. They consistently work really, really hard. They have such a great amount of respect for each other and they work really hard to make each other look good. It just makes me feel excited to want to coach them and today kind of brought it all back.

Could you feel the energy they had when they walked into the gym?
Oh yeah, you could feel it. We only ran through a couple things and purposely we didn’t want to do a lot, eight of them had a game yesterday. So, I told them I would treat it as if it were the regular season for them this next month, whenever they have a game, this is their routine. Whenever we have a day off, this is their routine. I try to keep it as normal as possible, within reason, knowing that we have a lot of work to do. But, I think their level of excitement and they’re anxious to get going and that’s going to overcome whatever tired legs they might have. So, that’s a good thing.

What are you hoping to get out of these three days in Los Angeles?
If we can just get a framework to work with: this is what we want to do, this is what we want to look like, this is how I want our team to approach things when we’re on offense, this is what I want it to look like when we’re on defense. And within that, just give them the freedom to do what they do best. So it’s not about, ‘here are the 17 things that I want us to do.’ No, here’s a little box, let’s just play in it and you do what you’re good at and we’ll be alright.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Overall thoughts on the first day of practice:
It was good. All of us are coming from our WNBA teams and the coaching staff is aware of that so today was really about just walking through some stuff. We actually watched some film of the last time we were together in Turkey, so overall I think it was positive.

On Monday’s game against the younger USA Basketball athletes:
It should be fun. They are probably excited. I know it will be a good game. Obviously I know firsthand, particularly Jewell, that the younger players are really talented and ready to take that baton, so it should be a fun night.

On her fourth Olympic appearance:
It’s great. You go through a career and you never know what can happen, so for me, I just feel really lucky and don’t want to take the moment for granted. I’m really excited for this fourth opportunity to participate in the Olympics.

Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)
On the first day of practice:
First day was great, just really getting out here and getting your mind wrapped around the plays and stuff. We went over a couple of the plays out of bounds – side out of bounds, under out of bounds, that kind of deal, but I think the energy is up. Everybody is kind of ready.

How does it feel to represent your country again?
It always feels good. It’s truly an honor to be able to come out here. It’s a blessing to be able to represent our country and go out there and know that we’re going to come out every single day and prepare and get ready because we don’t have much time.

How will the Select Team help you?
Well, it’s cool. Of course, a couple of my teammates are on the team. But looking at that young talent, and looking at how the USA team is picked and all the different stages that go into it. All of these young players will have an opportunity. They’ve already competed on some type of junior Olympic team, but they’ll have an opportunity to be on the senior team one day. So I think it’s a great matchup. It will be a lot of fun, the older players against a lot of our up and coming talent.

Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
How does it feel to represent your country?
It’s amazing. It feels surreal to finally be here. I feel like I’ve been waiting so long for this moment. Now that we’re here together, we’re excited and very focused on gold.

On the first practice:
It was great. It was light because most of us had games last night, so we just kind of put in some plays, did the mind work, and tomorrow we’ll get after it.

How will the Select Team help you?
They’ll be awesome. It’s going to be a great time. Right at the beginning I believe they’re going to help practice with us a little bit. It will be a great scrimmage. Obviously, WNBA players, there is nothing better than going against the best of the best.

Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
Overall thoughts on the first day of practice:
I thought today was good to get in, flush out a few things, get some plays under our belt, get acclimated with each other. It wasn’t long but it was worthwhile.

On her mindset with the quick turnaround from the WNBA season to Olympics:
I think I am just excited. Obviously, with the Storm, we played last night and that was the focus, but now just being here with the USA team, shifting gears to that, and with the Olympics coming up, how can you not be excited?

On playing against former UCONN teammates Kiah Stokes and Stef Dolson, and current Storm teammate Jewell Loyd on Monday night:
I think it will be a really cool opportunity to test the waters to see how we’re doing and playing against Jewell and my UCONN teammates, people that I’ve grown up playing with and against.

On playing for Coach Auriemma again:
It’s great. To be able to be back with him, on the same court with him again, I didn’t know it would happen so quickly, but I’m going to enjoy this experience as much as I can.

Sunday, June 24, 2016 Practice Quotes

USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)
(question unintelligible)
The goal of every Olympian, especially if you’re the favorite, is to make sure you win the gold medal. Anything less than that would be unacceptable. I know some countries would be happy if they get a medal. There’s not going to be any parades for us if we don’t win a gold medal. All the players know that. Some of them have already won multiple gold medals, so that feeling of ‘I want to do it again’ is like really, really strong, and we’ve got three players that this is their first and they want to experience what it feels like. From a coaching standpoint, my job is to help them do that. I don’t think that winning another gold medal for me changes my life that much, but if you’re Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart, when you get your first Olympic gold medal, that’s huge.

Because the pressure is so high, Is there still room for fun?
We talk about that a lot. We try to take the approach that these opportunities don’t come along often and you’re certainly not guaranteed this opportunity in the future. So, even if you’re one of the young guys, you can’t sit here and go, ‘well, if I don’t enjoy this, I’ll make sure I’ll enjoy the next one.’ Well, there might not be a next one for you. So, I’m trying to make it so that … we’ve got work to do, but at the same time, it’s every kid’s dream to play in the Olympics and here it is. You’re living it. So, let’s enjoy it. And sometimes the only people that enjoy it are the people that are the underdog, you know? It’s like ‘yeah, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that, and isn’t this great.’ And the favorite sometimes play with a little bit of a, ‘I hope we don’t lose.’ And the one thing I’ve learned at Connecticut is when you’re the favorite, you have to play like it and you have to play with the kind of confidence and the kind of swagger that says, ‘even if you play your A game, as long as we play our A game, we’re going to win.’ And a lot of these players already have that and I just keep reinforcing it.

What’s the best part of coaching this team?
I know so many of them. Nine of us have been together since 2009. They played in the (2010 FIBA) World Championship and then we played the (2012) Olympics together, then we played in the (2014) World Championship in Istanbul together, so there’s a lot of familiarity there between me and them, and (within) themselves. So, I don’t have to say things 15 times to get my point across. They get it. Sometimes it’s just a simple word or just a gesture and they’ve got it. And we’ve got great leadership in Sue, Diana and Tamika. This is just an incredible group of veterans and they really set the tone and I really lean on them a lot.

Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx)
What’s it like to be back out here with another Olympic team?
It feels great to be in a position, for me, to possibly go for my third gold medal and to be a part of history that we’re making here, trying to get a sixth gold medal as a women’s basketball team. We’re trying to keep the legacy alive. It feels great to be around great players and great coaches. We’re trying to get better and keep this thing moving.

On being a part of the USA Women’s Basketball legacy:
It means a lot. I keep saying every interview that I do, I just remember having the USA Women’s Basketball poster from the ’96 team in my room because we didn’t a WNBA and all of this and we didn’t know if it was going to be around. So my dream, my goal, was to be like those strong women that I saw in that poster and to be in this strong position to be one of those players that young women and young boys are looking up to. And to be able to be a part of a legacy and a tradition that’s so rich in success and winning says a lot about where I’ve come from to now where people are like, ‘Oh you’re the old head on the team, this is your third time around.’ It means a lot.

On coming home from Brazil with the 2006 FIBA World Championship bronze medal after losing to Russia in the semifinals:
A lot has changed since 2006. I was one of the young guns on the team and basically didn’t get a lot of playing time. It was pretty much my learning experience. We didn’t finish the way we wanted to and I had to hear that for eight seasons in Russia, that they beat us in 2006. So now it’s kind of like redemption for players that had to play overseas in Russia and had to hear all the chitter chatter about that.

Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)
On representing her country:
Between Lisa [Leslie], Dawn [Staley] and Sheryl [Swoopes], I just remember them and how you carry yourself as an Olympian and how you always are prepared and how there’s all this extra stuff that going on. But even through that you have to focus and maintain your focus throughout the game because of our lack of practice time and lack of being together. We kind of have to grow really fast and you’ve got to make sure you’re 100 percent here every single moment you step on the court.

On Team USA’s chemistry:
It’s that mutual respect and just knowing what each person brings to the table. I don’t have to doubt that Sue [Bird] and D [Diana Taurasi] are going to be ready; they don’t have to doubt that I’m going to be ready. We just have to make sure, as the leaders and captains of this team, make sure that our team is ready to go.

On the opportunity to win a fourth gold medal:
That’s what we’re here for. I think just going back to my first time. Dawn said, ‘we don’t leave here without the gold.’ And that’s kind of been the mindset from the first time that I came to the fourth time. I’m super excited about the opportunity to represent my country one last time and to be out here with some amazing players young and old, and I like being able to pass that torch on to the next generation.

Are there any health concerns about Rio?
No there aren’t. I think we’re all confident enough with USA Basketball and the USOC that no matter what happens they will never put us a situation that would be detrimental to our overall life. So I know that and have full confidence in them. And the thing is, every single time – we play overseas in the offseason. So every time you’re going overseas, every time the Olympics comes around, there is always sometime of implication where you’re always like, ‘what about this? What about that?’ So I feel like as a team, USA Basketball has been great about giving us the information about Zika and the other things that are going on and making sure that we’re aware about everything.

Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
With the USA Women’s Team going for gold once again, what does it mean to you to with this being your first Olympic experience?
Oh, my gosh. It would mean the world to me. USA Basketball has so much history.  And now, to be going for a sixth straight gold medal.  I’m really excited to be a part of that and it would be an amazing experience.  I’d love to be a part of that history and to make America proud.

Who among the Olympic veterans has been the most helpful in terms of helping you learn the ropes?
This is a huge and brand new experience for me.  So I’m glad we have so many veterans who can help the newbies, like me, along the way.  But I’m ready; I’m definitely prepared and ready to get everything underway.  And it’s not just one of the vets; all of them have been incredibly helpful.

What is it that they’ve imparted to the newbies?
All of them at different times have been great about illustrating what the culture is like with this team, what we need to bring every day in terms of effort.  All of the veterans have played a big part in that.

For you, a star in your own right, what is it like to be on a team with so many superstars?
Playing with this group of superstars, it is so much fun to just watch and see how everyone’s game gets elevated.  Without a doubt, that is the most exciting part of this experience.

Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
On the advice Diana Taurasi has given her:
Take it in. Take it all in. Don’t let it go by. It will go by quickly. It seems like it doesn’t go by quickly, but it will go by quickly. She said she wish she would have taken advantage of some of the small things like being in the village and really taking it in, and that’s what I plan on doing. Samsung hooked us up with some really cool gear, too. So I plan on capturing it all on my new little camera thing that I have. So I’m super excited.

Is it nice to have a teammate with you during this?
Yeah, for sure. It always makes it better when you have someone from your team that’s there with you. But I’ve been around all these ladies. We feel that camaraderie and that sisterhood, so I’m happy being around all of them.

On the Olympic sports she plans to watch:
I plan to make it around whenever I can. There is nothing in particular. But I plan to make it around and see gymnastics. That’s one of the top ones on my list.

Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
How does it feel to get started?
It’s amazing. This is a great group of girls. Everybody is having fun. You can tell everyone is excited to be here. We all get along, hang with each other. It’s just a great atmosphere and I’m really excited to be a part of this team. Look, we’re playing football before practice. It’s cool, it’s freaking awesome. It’s a lot of fun.

On going back to Brazil where she won her first gold medal with USA Basketball at the 2007 Pan American Games:
My first gold medal, 2007. I’m excited to get back there. Brazil is a lot of fun. Their fans are passionate about basketball. When we play, if we get to play Brazil, it’s going to be packed – jam packed. So I’m glad to get back to the country and learn some things. I’m sure I’ve learned a lot since being there in 2007. So I’m excited to get there again.

What is best to focus on with so little time to train?
No possessions off. Don’t waste time. We’ve really just got to focus. We’ve got eight days until we go to Rio, so we’ve got to get things focused and really gel.

Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
Overall thoughts on the second day of practice
It was fun to have the energy that we had yesterday even through more than half of us had played the night before. I was happy to see everyone in good spirits and focused in. I thought it was efficient, effective and we will be able to build better today because of the mental prep and training we did yesterday.

Overall thoughts on getting to Rio
Just excited, trying to take it day by day, continuing to work and enjoy the people along the way.

On her expectations for the second day of practice
Hopefully continuing to get sharper and more crisp as a unit, and everything that we’re doing, just continuing the communication, mainly just getting a good feel, a good flow on some of the staples we do offensively.

On playing against familiar faces during tomorrow’s USA vs. Select Team game
Yeah, it should be fun. Hopefully we will be able to put on a good show and get better at the same time, with everyone staying healthy.

Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
On her thoughts before the team’s second practice in Los Angeles
I’m just trying to stay in the moment. How ever many practices we have total, they need to be worthwhile so that we are just building from one day to the next.

On her reflections from day one of practice yesterday
Just how happy I am to be here and to be part of this. It’s an opportunity that not a lot of people have, so I’m just enjoying it.

On the advice she’s gotten from the experienced players on the team
Yeah, I talked to Sue a lot, just because we’re on the same team in Seattle. The biggest thing I got from her was to just enjoy this moment, enjoy being part of the Olympics, because you don’t know if it’s going to happen again and you don’t want to take that for granted.

Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
This is your second Olympics. What does that for you personally?
It’s great to be around everybody and I’m honored to be a part of this, to be back here again and representing your country. It’s a lot of fun, a great atmosphere; great basketball.

What’s the best part of playing on a team like this that is comprised of so many superstars?
The way that everybody works hard and things come together so quickly. Everyone comes here from their WNBA games; a lot of us played yesterday.  Now today we make this quick transition and have a great practice as a unit.

London, 2012, France made an unprecedented run for that program; Australia was once again a key rival…what do you envision this time in Rio?
It’s a lot of experienced teams, teams that have been there before, teams that have experience on the Olympic stage. We play against a lot of players from these teams whether it is in the WNBA or overseas in the winter and we know their talent level as individuals and as teams.  A lot of these teams are going to be ready to go and will present us with a challenge.

What does this USAB team want to accomplish over the next week of practices and exhibition games?
We want to get better. That’s the main thing; no question about it. Get better. Keep on gellin’.

What does it mean for you as a member of the Lynx to have four players on the USAB Women’s Team?
It kind of just shows we’ve been able to find some nice chemistry among us. We’re playing hard together, playing unselfishly, and bringing the best out of each other.

This post is part of the following threads: 2016 WNBA Season, Rio 2016 – ongoing stories on this site. View the thread timelines for more context on this post.


 

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