COLORADO SPRINGS (USA) – The USA will have a new look as they go after a fourth consecutive title at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
What that look will be, no one knows for certain since 28 players were named several days ago in the squad by USA Basketball for a training camp that takes place September 6-12 in Las Vegas before the Americans jet off to Australia.
“Everything’s on the table,” USA national team director Briana Weiss said in an Associated Press story about the squad and eventual makeup of the World Cup roster.
What we do know is that Tokyo Olympic gold medal winners that will not be in Sydney are Sue Bird , Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles, Napheesa Collier, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner. It’s unlikely that Diana Taurasi, whose quad injury kept her out of the Phoenix Mercury lineup at the end of the WNBA regular season and is not on the training camp roster, won’t feature for the USA. Taurasi did tell AP before her quad injury, however, that she was a “maybe” to compete in Sydney.
There are some burning questions asked about the USA with the World Cup tipping off on September 22 in Sydney, Australia. Here are five.
Answer: They do not. What separated these players in the USA jersey was their toughness. When big moments of games arrived, they were ready, and they delivered. They are legends. Maybe the better question is, “How do USA cope without Bird and Taurasi?” Answer: Put high-scoring point guard Kelsey Plum on the roster and give her minutes.
The second leading scorer in the WNBA with the Las Vegas Aces, Plum is one of the hottest players in the game. She can hit three-pointers from way beyond the arc, moves well without the ball and can score with runners and mid-range jump shots. Plum thrives on the fast break and yes, she won the Olympic gold medal in 3×3, a discipline in which the USA were not the prohibitive favorites. And she’s plenty tough enough. In their game against world powerhouse Belgium in Washington DC at the FIBA Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament, Plum was arguably the USA’s top player.
Coach Cheryl Reeve would probably suggest that every player on the World Cup roster will be a vocal leader but if you have to choose one, and this may sound odd, go with the soft-spoken Breanna Stewart, the best player in the USA jersey and arguably the top player in the world. Why, because even if Stewart doesn’t say much, when she does something, everyone respects her and will hang on her every word. Stewart was the MVP of the last FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain four years ago.
USA’s A’ja Wilson won’t be thinking about doing anything else other than winning the title Down Under
Of course they are. A lot of new players, and a new head coach. No Bird, no Taurasi, no Tina Charles, no Griner.Yet the USA are also far and away the best, deepest and most dominant team in women’s basketball, and have been for a long, long time. Yet, on any given day, anything can happen. Remember when Russia upset the USA at the World Cup in 2006? Even so, there is the amazing A’ja Wilson, Stewart, Chelsea Gray, Jewell Loyd, Elena Delle Donne and Plum. There is also the tantalizing prospect of having Sabrina Ionescu on the roster as she’s in the preliminary squad.
Only a fool would dismiss Belgium’s chances of pushing the USA hard for the entire game and getting a win. Belgium came up with the shock of the last World Cup against hosts Spain to go straight to the Quarter-Finals. USA ultimately beat the Cats with Taurasi, Bird, Griner and Charles in the Semi-Final four years ago, yet Belgium really gave the Americans their hardest game of the tournament. If Belgium get off to a good start against the USA, with all of their experience and with superstar Emma Meesseman leading the way, who knows?
If Japan play well, look out – they can beat any team on any court in any tournament
This falls into the “bold predictions” column because no one in their right mind is going to bet against the USA. But if you must … the team everyone will be pulling for Down Under will be Australia yet they won’t be good enough, even with Lauren Jackson back in the team. Using their performance at the World Cup Qualifying Tournament as a basis for judgement, France have no chance. China can certainly get hot from outside and if they avoid the USA, could threaten for the title. In a knockout game, however, the USA defense would run roughshod over them. That leaves Japan. This team has unfinished business, not only from the last World Cup when they came in ninth, but after the Olympics. Japan know they could have played much better in the Final. They play fast, faster and fastest. They get on a roll from three-point range. They can force turnovers. If there is a team that can spring a surprise and capture the title, it’s the Japanese.
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