Wednesday, June 19, 2024

USA Basketball officials explain primary reason for Caitlin Clark’s Olympics omission

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There were a host of reasons why Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark wasn’t selected to play for Team USA at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Among the primary ones that impacted the final decision was experience, according to selection committee members. Per an Associated Press and ESPN report, the committee didn’t think that Clark had “enough high-level reps” to be a member of the squad.

The team was officially announced on Tuesday and includes seven players (A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Brittney Griner, Chelsea Gray, Diana Taurasi, Jewell Loyd, Napheesa Collier) from the gold medal-winning bunch in Tokyo three years ago. The group’s championship in 2021 was their seventh straight.

“Here’s the basketball criteria that we were given as a committee and how do we evaluate our players based on that?” selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said, per the report. “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.”

UConn icon and women’s basketball legend Diana Taurasi is returning for a record sixth time, and unlike Clark, she got her international start as a WNBA rookie during the 2004 Athens Games. Per the report, Taurasi is one of just four WNBA rookies to make a U.S. Olympic team, joining Stewart, Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles.

Team USA is also welcoming Las Vegas Aces stars Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum to the unit, while Alyssa Thomas (Connecticut Sun), Kahleah Copper (Phoenix Mercury) and Sabrina Ionescu (New York Liberty) round out the crew.

“It’s a great mix of talent across the board in terms of individual skill sets,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said, according to the report. “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.”

Tooley added that Clark is “certainly going to continue to get better and better” and that he “really (hopes) that she’s a big part of (their) future going forward.”

Per the report, the selection committee has a “set of criteria to pick the team that includes playing ability, position played and adaptability to the international game.”

“It would be irresponsible for us to talk about (Clark) in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team,” Rizzotti said, according to the report. “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.”

The NCAA’s all-time leading scorer has notably been chosen as an alternate and could head to Paris if one of the 12 players on the roster is unable to play.

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