Thursday, June 20, 2024

USA Basketball: Experience, not popularity, vital for Olympics after Clark omission

Must read

USA Basketball Caitlin Clark’s lack of experience was the main factor for her omission from the US women’s Olympic roster that was officially revealed on Tuesday.

The selection committee didn’t believe Clark, who broke scoring records in college before entering the WNBA among huge hype this year, had enough of high-level experience. The team includes seven players from the group that won gold in Tokyo – the seventh straight for the US.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said the committee was aware of the outside noise and pressure to select Clark, the No 1 pick in the WNBA draft who has drawn millions of new fans to the sport but has struggled at times during her first year as a professional.

“Here’s the basketball criteria that we were given as a committee and how do we evaluate our players based on that?” Rizzotti said. “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 [USA head coach] Cheryl [Reeve] and then sometimes a vote.”

Diana Taurasi returns to the Games for a record sixth time at the age of 42. Her Olympic career started when she was a WNBA rookie in the 2004 Athens Games. Other returnees from the Tokyo Olympics are Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd and Brittney Griner.

The US also added newcomers Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, who helped the US win the inaugural 3×3 gold medal at the Tokyo Games in 2021. Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu and Kahleah Copper will join the team as first-time Olympians. All three played on the US team that won the World Cup in Australia in 2022.

“It’s a great mix of talent across the board in terms of individual skill sets,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said. “We have veterans, newcomers and those in the middle. Good perspective and continuity is such an important thing and is why we’ve been successful in the Olympics.”

All 12 of those players have senior national team experience. Clark does not.

“She’s certainly going to continue to get better and better,” Tooley said. “Really hope that she’s a big part of our future going forward.”

The selection committee has a set of criteria to pick the team that includes playing ability, position and adaptability to the international game. Marketing and popularity aren’t on that list.

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

Latest article