And then there were 16 for USA Basketball’s FIBA World Cup roster.
The competition has been tremendous for those vying for the 12 roster spots to play in this month’s FIBA World Cup for the United States, and we’re a step closer to knowing who will make the cut.
USA Basketball announced the sixteen players who will be playing in upcoming exhibitions against Canada, France and Senegal in Antibes, France. It is a mix of experience and those potentially making their first appearance in a World Cup for Team USA.
The returnees are: Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, Nneka Ogwumike, Elena Delle Donne, Britney Griner and Breanna Stewart.
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Potential newcomers include: Layshia Clarendon, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Mitchell, Tiffany Mitchell, Kelsey Plum, Morgan Tuck, Elizabeth Williams and A’ja Wilson.
“We had a great group of pool players that gave themselves a chance to be a part of the 16, but unfortunately the committee has to get that number down,” said USA Basketball head coach Dawn Staley in a press release. “The committee has to form a team that can compete at the highest level, and the unit that they selected should help us accomplish that. I’m just looking forward to leaving the country and playing some different competition, and continuing to create a bond and build the chemistry that is needed to win the World Cup.”
Last week, Staley spoke to reporters about the complicated process of integrating players into the roster mix. Delle Donne and Stewart, for instance, are still playing in the WNBA Finals.
“When I start getting in my head that you may not have a player until a day or two before, that’s when we’ll have her,” Staley said following practice in Westchester last Friday. “Man, you just keep moving forward. You can’t think about, oh, we’ll put this in when this player gets here. You just have to make your mark, put your mark on this team and add the players in as they come because they’re talented. They understand this game.”
If the returnees are assumed to be locks, that’s seven roster spots taken, leaving five for the remaining group of nine. It is easy to see Staley choosing for things like versatility, which would help Collier, Tuck (both capable of handling either forward spot) and Plum (strong running point or playing off the ball, spacing with her shooting). Wilson has also been dominant in the exhibitions to date, something that probably isn’t any surprise to Staley, who has a little history with Wilson.
And then there are singular talents that Staley could want—Clarendon’s distributing, Kelsey Mitchell’s perimeter shooting, Williams’ shot-blocking. The thing about the USA Basketball talent pool is, there really aren’t any wrong answers.
Still, it is an unenviable task ahead for Carol Callan, Geno Auriemma and company as they make final selections.