5 UConn products on U.S. Olympic team
Lisa Leslie, who appeared in the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and Teresa Edwards, who was a part of five straight Olympic squads from 1984-2000, are the only other U.S. women's players to make at least four U.S. Olympic teams.
The team has an unmistakable UConn flavor to it. Tina Charles and Maya Moore will be playing in the Olympics for the second time while Breanna Stewart is the youngest member of the team.
Stewart's inclusion did come at the expense of two-time Olympian Candace Parker, the leading rebounder for the U.S. during the 2012 Olympics. The move led to criticize UConn and U.S. national team coach Geno Auriemma for favoring his former players or at least influencing the selection committee into leaning towards former Huskies. The ultimate irony is that if Stewart is part of the gold-medal winning team, it will mark the first time a women's player won the NCAA and Olympic title in the same year since Parker accomplished the feat in 2008.
"This was an incredibly difficult decision for the selection committee, but a very positive challenge given the talented athletes in our pool," said Carol Callan, USA Basketball Women's National Team Director and chair of the USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee in a statement. "If you combine the returning 2012 Olympians with the 2014 world champions, you have 15 very qualified candidates. Add to that an emerging group of young athletes and the decision becomes that much harder to settle on a final 12-member roster. The good news is that we have developed a deep, talented pool of athletes at each position through our national team program. We are grateful that the very best athletes in our country want to play and push each other to be better whenever our team gathers to train.
"This team has all of the areas necessary for success covered - talent and depth at each position, flexibility to play several positions, leadership on and off the court, international experience, demonstrated teamwork and a blend of veterans and youth. They understand their roles and the responsibility of representing the U.S. in Rio, and we look forward to watching their journey as they work toward a sixth-straight gold medal."
Bird, Catchings, Charles, Moore and Taurasi will be joined by Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Angel McCoughtry and Lindsay Whalen to give the U.S. nine players back from the team which won a fifth straight Olympic gold medal in 2012. Stewart, Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner are the first-time Olympians on the team.
The U.S. will be joined in Group B at the Olympics by Canada, featuring UConn rising junior guard Kia Nurse, Senegal and Serbia as well as two of the five teams to emerge out of June's Olympic qualifying tournament. Pool play runs from Aug. 6-14. the quarterfnals are on Aug, 16, semifinals on Aug. 18 and the gold-medal game on Aug. 20 in Rio de Janeiro.