Wednesday, June 19, 2024

How Caitlin Clark can make Team USA Olympics roster: Why Fever rookie’s dream of going to Paris remains alive | Sporting News

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Team USA officially announced its women’s basketball roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics on Tuesday.

As expected, Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark did not make the 12-player squad. Team USA opted to bring an experienced group to Paris, as seven of the players suited up for the gold medal-winning team in Tokyo in 2021.

Clark didn’t make the cut in part due to her relative lack of experience with the senior national team. That was one of Team USA’s key basketball criteria informing the roster construction, selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said.

“When you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes,” Rizzotti explained in an interview with the Associated Press. “Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for Cheryl [Reeve] and then sometimes a vote.”

Yet while Clark didn’t make the 12-woman roster, her Olympic dreams are far from dead. She is expected to be a “big part of [Team USA’s] future going forward,” as USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley noted. That could put her on track for an Olympic bid in 2028.

Could Clark still go to Paris in 2024? She still has a chance to make her Olympic debut this year as Team USA considers two more key roster decisions.

MORE: Diana Taurasi speaks on Caitlin Clark’s Olympics snub

How Caitlin Clark can make Team USA’s Olympic roster

Clark is among those in the running to be selected as an alternate for the 2024 Olympics. Each team can bring two alternates to Paris, and those players would draw into the lineup in case of an injury.

Clark is one of the top options for an alternate spot, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported.

“Caitlin Clark and Brionna Jones of Connecticut are top of the alternates list for Team USA if there is needed to be a replacement,” he said on his “Run it Back” show. “But this is a supremely talented roster.”

It makes sense that Team USA would consider Clark as an alternate. Point guard Chelsea Gray hasn’t played in 2024 because of a lower right leg injury, so Team USA would be thin at guard if she can’t get on the court.

Gray is expected to be back healthy before the Olympics. But if the 31-year-old has a setback, that could open the door for Clark to wet her feet in a smaller role at the Olympics.

BENDER: Leaving Caitlin Clark off the Olympic Team is a mistake that didn’t need to happen

Team USA potential alternates 2024 Olympics

Of course, Clark isn’t guaranteed an alternate spot for the Summer Games. Other high-end Olympic snubs could provide the team with upside if called upon to replace an injured star.

Brionna Jones is averaging 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game on 59% shooting this season for the Connecticut Sun. Her 6-3 frame could prove useful if one of Team USA’s bigs got banged up.

Arike Ogunbowale could draw an alternate spot over Clark given the 5-8 point guard’s WNBA experience. The Dallas Wings star is averaging 26.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.2 steals per game this season. She has finished top 10 in MVP voting in four of her five professional seasons and is one of the league’s best and most consistent scorers.

One could argue Ogunbowale was the selection committee’s biggest snub, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the 27-year-old get the nod over Clark given her five seasons of experience.

Both Ariel Atkins and Skylar Diggins-Smith were on the gold medal-winning team at the Tokyo Olympics, so each could draw consideration for an alternate role as well. They have averaged 13.2 and 14.5 points per game this season, respectively.

Add in up-and-coming talents in Rhyne HowardCameron Brink and Aliyah Boston and Clark will face tough competition for one of the two alternate spots — just like she did in her battle for a roster spot.

If Clark doesn’t make the team, even as an alternate, there is a silver lining: She will be able to rest, recover and work to continue reshaping her body and game at the pro level.

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