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Hoops Happening: Today in women’s basketball — Wednesday April 25, 2018

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USA Women’s National Team wraps first day of spring training camp, with tough roster decisions ahead. Will the selection committee build a roster for the future or one that honors legends of the past?

Olympics: Basketball-Women's Team-Gold medal match -USA vs ESP
Two all-time greats, Diana Taurasi (L) and Sue Bird (R), hug it out on-court during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

USA Women’s National Team Head Coach Dawn Staley has been handed an embarrassment of riches, with the likes of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Seimone Augustus, Breanna Stewart, Sylvia Fowles, Allisha Gray, Jewell Loyd, Nepheesa Collier and Kelsey Mitchell competing for roster spots.

Staley expressed relief about not being on the committee tasked with deciding which players — gasp! — get the cut.

“Oh man, I wouldn’t want that job,” she said. “I am glad that I am not a part of it and that I am not on the committee, because they have a tough job. You have the best players in the world, and to have to send one of the best players home, it’s a tough job.”

Of course, it all comes down to team chemistry — finding the right player combinations. But the committee would be derelict if it did not also prioritize striking the right balance of veteran leadership (Bird, Taurasi, Augustus) with fresher legs (Stewart, Gray, Collier, Mitchell).

The practices during this third training camp of the year, plus the exhibition game against China on Thursday, will hopefully give the unnamed committee members the important information they need to make these tough choices. The players they select should provide some indication for women’s basketball fans on whether the committee has its sights set more on the long view (seasoning newer players for the future) or the short (keeping seasoned players perhaps out of respect for accomplishments of the past).

Decisions by the USA Women’s National Team selection committee will have lasting implications on international play, especially Olympic qualifying opportunities. These tournaments include:

  • 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup of Basketball;
  • 2019 FIBA AmeriCup; and
  • 2020 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

No pressure.

Team USA: A show of pride or a source of pride?

The legendary Sue Bird said something in her camp-day interviews that normally would not stand out as eye-popping:

“You look around and you have the Chicago Sky, Washington Mystics, Phoenix Mercury, but the minute you put this jersey on, it’s different,” Bird said. “Everybody’s rooting for you, because everybody wants to see the country do well.”

Women’s basketball players often get the most respect during international play while competing for country. This dynamic is fascinating on its own because it, again, begs the question: Why is respect not given during league play, when it is a team-versus-team situation, during the WNBA season?

That nugget aside, what must it mean for these players to compete for the United States of America, Version 2018?

The USA Women’s National Team is coached by one of the greats to ever be involved with the game of basketball, having dominated on and off the court. Yet, her NCAA Championship-winning Lady Gamecocks were not invited for a celebratory visit to the White House. (The Alabama Crimson Tide football team was invited and visited with Donald Trump, however.)

We also live at a time when the #MeToo movement is raising into the sunlight some ugly truths about gender-based power and discrimination in the workplace.

And, how could we forget the blood of so many innocent citizens spilled every day onto the floors of school hallways and classrooms, restaurants, hardware stores ... the front porches of residential homes ... the grass of residential backyards? The scores of people who overdose daily on opioids?

It is hard to expect that anyone should take pride in such a tattered social fabric.

Arguably, shame, embarrassment and outrage would be more appropriate reactions to what can feel like madness. But sports have the power to inspire, and the USA Women’s National Team is an embodiment of the best this country has to offer: strong women living the American dream through skill, hard work and determination.

These players and coaches give us reasons to be proud of our country, and challenge us to live up to our individual potential the same way that they are living up to theirs.

How to watch

What: USA vs. China exhibition

When: Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m. PST / 10 p.m. EST

Where: KeyArena in Seattle, WA (Tickets: http://bit.ly/18USAvsCHNtix)

Streaming options:

  • usab.com/live
  • USA Basketball’s Facebook page
  • USA Basketball’s YouTube channel

Other happenings in women’s hoops

ICYMI: Jewell Loyd is good at basketball

Dawn Staley: Center court, rocking Team USA uni

Wrigley Delle Donne misses his “mobby,” looks to break into show biz