It starts with practice. No matter how good you are practice, as they say, makes perfect and the USA Women’s Basketball Team is as close as they come to perfect.
Practicing and perfecting their techniques is important to the USA Women’s Basketball Team, but as top athletes they are competitive and it’s the games where they transfer that practice and teamwork to gauge where they are.
Because when it comes down to the foundation of why they do what they do, it’s about winning and for the USA Women’s Basketball Team that means winning the FIBA World Cup, this year being played in October in Spain, and continuing their gold medal winning ways in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
To that end, the USA Women’s Basketball Team has come to Seattle to get a couple of days practice in and to put their work into game play as they take on the Chinese National Team on Thursday, April 26.
“Well, [it’s] a great opportunity for us to play a game,” said U.S. head coach Dawn Staley. “This is our third training camp and a lot of times when you’re a competitor you just see training camp as practice and now they see a game at the end of the tunnel and that’s what you want to practice and play.”
The players on the roster for this game are some of the best in the world. As they work together, there is a goal they are heading to as they practice and play.
“The goal is…not so much about trying to show your stuff but playing as a team and showing how we’ll win a gold medal,” said Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart.
Part of the roster includes the number ones of the Seattle Storm. Guard Sue Bird, Stewart and forward Jewell Loyd will get the chance to put on the USA jersey and play in front of their home crowd.
“It’s fun obviously for me,” said Bird. “It’s nice to be here. It’s nice to know we’re going to get a chance to play in front of the Seattle Storm, and in general, fans.”
For the athletes it’s also a great “warm-up” as they head into the WNBA season with training camp starting on Sunday, April 29.
“Obviously I think it’s great just to be here in Seattle,” said Stewart. “I think the both of us [Stewart and Loyd] have kind of been all over the place this off season [so] to be able to be here, to have a game in front of our fans at Key before the season actually starts in the W is actually amazing. And anytime we’re able to get out on the court with Sue and Jewell makes it a lot easier.”
The USA training camp brings together newcomers this year like Loyd, the Atlanta Dream’s Layshia Clarendon and Oregon State alum and Los Angeles Sparks guard Sydney Wiese who is heading into her sophomore WNBA season.
Wiese is absorbing the experience of playing with the variety of athletic talent in camp, being a part of USA basketball and being back in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s amazing to be back in Seattle. Going to school at Oregon State I became very familiar with Seattle and so it feels like home and away,” said Wiese. “Then to share it with some of the best in the world learning from them asking them a lot of questions and being able to compete out there. It’s an honor to be able to put on these colors to represent our nation and to prepare for what’s in store.”
Leading the youngsters and other veterans are senior members Bird who’s been playing with the USA since 2002 and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, who started on the national level in 2004. Taurasi wants to make sure the legacy she learned continues through them to the new crop.
“I feel like we’re senior citizen members of this team,” laughed Taurasi. “…we take a lot of pride in coming here and making sure that these young kids are getting ready to take the helm whenever that is and it might be next year it might be after the Olympics, who knows.”
Taurasi mentions how other athletes see you put the time in and they recognize the effort and experience. She has seen the same kind of cycle when she first started with USA basketball.
“I was a 21-year-old kid at the Olympics and Dawn was the point guard and Sheryl Swoopes and Tina [Thompson],” said Taurasi. “I had such respect for them and the way they carried themselves. They really taught me how to be a professional just by watching them. They didn’t do anything special they just came to work ready to play hard every day.”
There’s a wealth of talent and resources with Team USA. Along with WNBA champions like Bird, Taurasi, Minnesota Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus and others, there’s the sideline support and wisdom of coaches who have brought their own history and knowledge to the fold.
Whether speaking to Coach Staley or assistant coaches Cheryl Reeve, who has led the Lynx to four WNBA championships, Dan Hughes going into his first season as Storm head coach but with 17 seasons in the WNBA and a two-time WNBA Coach of the Year or longtime basketball standout and now head coach at George Washington University Jennifer Rizzotti it’s a cornucopia of experiences and skill sets from the bench to the boards that continue the legacy of a strong and growing program.
And no matter who they play for during the WNBA season or what college they graduated from, when it comes to putting on the red, white and blue, the individual team lines disappear and the jersey brings everyone together.
“The one thing about the USA jersey is when you put this thing on everybody cheers for you,” said Bird. “So I think regardless if you’re a Seattle Storm player, an LA Spark, a Chicago Sky, a Washington Mystic (or) Phoenix Mercury the minute you put this jersey on its different and everybody’s rooting for you, everybody wants to see the country do well. So that’s what’s going to be different about Thursday I think.”
Fans can still get tickets for the USA versus China friendly. The game starts at 7 pm at the KeyArena and should be a great warm-up to the WNBA season.