Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Caitlin Clark omitted from Team USA: Selection committee chair defends decision, cites ‘basketball criteria’

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Indiana Fever rookie and former Iowa basketball star Cailtin Clark will not join Team USA at the 2024 Olympic Games after USA Basketball omitted the WNBA’s No. 1 pick from its roster. The controversial move came with deafening public backlash, but Team USA selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti defended the decision, citing Clark’s lack of pro experience as a chief concern.

Clark said she has “no disappointment” with her Team USA snub, but the outcry in her defense is arguably warranted given the eye-catching production she logged across her first 13 professional games. The superstar guard tallied 16.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists per contest to open her career, and she already has a pair of 30-point outings on her ledger.

“Here’s the basketball criteria that we were given as a committee and how do we evaluate our players based on that?,” Rizzotti said in an AP interview. “And when you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes. Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach Cheryl Reeve] and then sometimes a vote.”

There are 12 WNBA standouts on Team USA. A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Alyssa Thonas, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Sabrina Ionescu, Chelsea Gray and Kahleah Copper round out the roster.

“It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team,” said Rizzotti. “Because it wasn’t the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the U.S. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl.”

If there are any knocks against Clark’s early professional performance, they stem from her shooting efficiency and ball security. The college sharpshooter connected on a modest 37.3% of her field goal attempts with the Fever and hit from beyond the arc at a 32.7% clip. She also averages a league-worst 5.6 turnovers per game.

Clark is one of the biggest sources of attention in the WNBA, but her arrival in the league has not always come as a smooth transition. UConn coach Geno Auriemma said the former Iowa star is “being targeted” by league veterans amid the hard fouls and vocal warnings she received from some of the sport’s top stars.

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“I think it just gives you something to work for,” Clark said of missing the team. “It’s a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it’s just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there.”

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