Under watchful eye of Geno Auriemma, USA Basketball Senior National Team opens camp

Photo: USA Basketball.
Photo: USA Basketball. [Full photo gallery]
STORRS, Conn. – Sixteen of the best players in the world convened at the current mecca of women’s college basketball, Storrs, Conn., for the first training camp of this Olympic year. They came from all over the world, literally, to gather with head coach Geno Auriemma and his USA basketball staff in an effort to earn a coveted roster spot on the 2016 Olympic team.

“We were saying every time we get together with this group, we’re always ready to go. They’re always committed to the process to what they are trying to do,” said an exhuberant Auriemma. “They understand, so getting together with these guys is never difficult, it’s never ever a chore; it’s always fun, something to look forward to. It’s fun to watch them to play, let’s put it that way.”

It is indeed fun to watch, when there is a fast break being run by the combination of Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird on one wing and Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi on the other, while Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen handles the ball. Or when the Mercury’s Brittney Griner drop steps and lays the ball in on a beautiful entry pass from the Lynx’s Maya Moore on the wing.

“I’m a baby to [USA Basketball], Turkey was my first Worlds [FIBA World Championships],” said Griner, “so it is really big for me to be going for a spot on the Olympic team.”

With Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles, Jantel Lavender and Candace Parker still overseas, Griner and Mystics center Stefanie Dolson are the only true posts in camp, and thus got a great deal of work in.

There is a mix of experience and youth. Tamika Catchings, looking to end her playing career with a gold medal, joined UConn senior Breanna Stewart and Storm second-year player Jewell Loyd, who is the same age as Stewart.

Chicago Sky teammates Elena Delle Donne and Courtney Vandersloot, as well as San Antonio Stars teammates Kayla McBride and Danielle Robinson are vying for their first international spots, while the Atlanta Dream’s Angel McCoughtry and the Lynx’s Seimone Augustus look to add to their impressive gold-medal resumes.

It is difficult to watch the scrimmages and not be amazed by the professionalism, the effort, and the excitement in both the veterans and newcomers.

After the London Olympics, Auriemma emphatically stated he was done, that he would not coach USA Basketball again, and it was time for someone else to take over. Yet here he is, in the midst of going for a record-breaking eleventh national championship with his UConn Huskies, taking time to coach the best players in the world, many of which were kids that he coached as Huskies.

“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “It was true at the time [about not coaching]. I have no regrets about this team though, there are too many guys I am really close to on this team, that I trust, and I believe in. Chances of them being around [for the Olympics] are not 100 percent like they were from 2012 to 2016, but its close. I think my chances of being the next coach are tied into theirs. I think we’re both going to ride off into the sunset, like the football player [Jared Allen]. I’m getting on a horse and riding off to Eastern Connecticut. I’m going to be a dairy farmer.”

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