WNBA players form talent pool for USA Olympics team—By Charles Hallman, Staff Writer

USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan (center) with team members Maya Moore (l) and Lindsay Whalen -Photo by Sophia Hantzes

It is nearly a year away, but the 2012 Summer Olympics will impact the 2012 WNBA regular season.
“The WNBA traditionally stops the season to allow the players to play in [the Olympics],” notes USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan on the fact that the start of next year’s WNBA season will coincide with the conclusion of the European leagues playoffs. “So many of our players play overseas and they all play in the WNBA, so it’s hard to find the time” to hold training camp, she continues.

“What we are going to do is what we did last year and the year before — take some time at the end of this season before the Euro League season really gets underway, and try to have some sort of training camp.”

Callan says she anticipate sometime early October for holding such a mini-camp. “The collegiate season starts October 15, so the window is very small,” she points out, referring to USA Head Coach Geno Auriemma, who also is the University of Connecticut head coach.

She was in town last week and presented current team members Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen with their 2010 FIBA World Championship rings. “I was more than happy that I made it [on the world championship team],” says Whalen on winning the gold medal in the Czech Republic last October.

Keeping a core group of players has been the USA women’s team’s approach in preparing for international competition since the mid-1990s.

“From 1996 to around 2004, we committed to about seven or eight players…and we fill out the rest of the roster,” recalls Callan. “Then we found that was difficult because it was hard to get those eight players all the time. Now we have gone to the philosophy of getting a bigger group, still with players we consider our ‘core group’ but also players who have played with us for years: Candice Wiggins [and] Maya Moore played with us since they were 18, 19 years old when they were in college.”

Five current Lynx players — Moore, Wiggins, Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson — are on the current 26-player USA national team roster. The 2012 U.S. Women’s Olympic team will be chosen from this pool of players.

“So it’s not only a national team core group, it’s a core group of players who have played with us for 10 years,” surmises Callan. “We’ve been fortunate that those players have remained the same — it’s the coaches that have actually changed [over the years].”

“I’ve had the privilege of being able to work with the national team for the last three years,” admits Moore. “You are playing with the best players and it is a blast.”

In the end, Callan believes that two things makes the U.S. women’s national basketball team stand apart from the men. “I think the reason why we are successful is that our best [women] players…want to play time and time again,” she concludes. “Secondly, all of our players play overseas, so they already understand the international game, the rules and the nuances.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.