Team USA is beginning preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, announcing the roster of 16 players who will participate in the forthcoming training camp in Atlanta (Nov. 7-9) and exhibition games against Tennessee (Nov. 5) and Duke (Nov. 12).
The roster features a mix of the past, present and future of USA Basketball:
- Ariel Atkins (Washington Mystics)
- Aliyah Boston (Indiana Fever)
- Kahleah Copper (Chicago Sky)
- Allisha Gray (Atlanta Dream)
- Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
- Dearica Hamby (Los Angeles Sparks)
- Natasha Howard (Dallas Wings)
- Rhyne Howard (Atlanta Dream)
- Sabrina Ionescu (New York Liberty)
- Betnijah Laney (New York Liberty)
- Angel McCoughtry (free agent)
- Arike Ogunbowale (Dallas Wings)
- Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces)
- Azurá Stevens (Los Angeles Sparks)
- Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
- Jackie Young (Las Vegas Aces)
The November 2023 #USABWNT roster is here!— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) October 26, 2023
16 athletes, including seven Olympians, will participate in the Nov. 7-9 training camp in Atlanta.
Four previous 5x5 Olympians are among the 16 players: Taurasi (2021, 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004), McCoughtry (2016, 2012), Griner (2021, 2016) and Atkins (2021). Gray, Plum and Young all were 2021 3x3 Olympians. Atkins and Plum also were members of 2022 FIBA World Cup champion team, along with Copper, Ionescu and Laney.
Taurasi, Griner, Gray, Copper and Ionescu will play in both exhibitions, along with R. Howard and Stevens. Against Tennessee, Atkins, Boston, Laney and Young will suit up, while Plum, Hamby, N. Howard and Ogunbowale will see action against Duke.
Minnesota Lynx head coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve continues her tenure as head coach of the national team; she took over for Dawn Staley in 2021 and is slated to serve as coach through 2024. Washington Mystics general manager Mike Thibault and Los Angeles Sparks head coach Curt Miller remain her assistants. For the exhibition games, Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright and Connecticut Sun head coach, and 2023 WNBA Coach of the Year, Stephanie White will act as court coaches, with Wright assuming the role against Tennessee and White against Duke.
Expect to see A’ja, Stewie and AT at the Olympics
However, the names missing from the roster might be most notable, headlined by 2023 WNBA Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces, 2023 WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart of the New York Liberty and Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun. At the 2022 World Cup in Sydney, Australia, Wilson won MVP, while Thomas was named the Best Defensive Player. In Sydney, those three were joined in the starting lineup by the Aces’ Chelsea Gray and Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd.
The fivesome’s absences are understandable. In addition to chatting with Jennifer Hudson and getting serenaded by Usher, Wilson might be dealing with an arm/wrist injury. Gray remains hobbled by the foot injury she suffered in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. Injury concerns also explain Loyd’s absence; at the Storm’s exit interviews, she indicated she had been managing several injuries throughout the 2023 season. Stewart is in mom mode, having just welcomed her son, Theo, to the world. Thomas is hooping halfway around the world, putting up triple-doubles for the Shanxi Xing Flame in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.
It’d be shocking if, barring health, those five were not on the 2024 Olympic team. Griner also seems like a surefire selection. Taurasi’s case is more complicated, as the health issues that come with her advanced basketball age raise legitimate questions about her availability and reliability. And while USA Basketball has burned bridges with program stalwarts in the past, Taurasi appears to have attained immunity from such internal politics, making it hard to imagine Reeve and Briana Weiss, who succeeded Carol Callan as Women’s National Team Director last fall, telling Taurasi to stay home.
Who will earn their passport to Paris?
If the above assumptions are correct, that’s seven players, leaving only five available spots on the final 12-player Olympic roster. When Team USA takes the court in Knoxville and Durham, the most pressing competition will not be with the Lady Vols or Blue Devils but within the roster, as players with All-Star games, All-WNBA honors and gold medals to their names will be looking to secure their passport to Paris.
Guards and wings who can offer a mix of ball handling, perimeter defense and 3-point shooting are the primary needs for this theoretical roster. Kahleah Copper, Jackie Young, Ariel Atkins Betnijah Laney and Allisha Gray stand out as solid fits. While Copper’s speed adds a valuable dimension, Young, Atkins, Laney and Gray are well practiced at moving between complementary and featured roles.
It also will be interesting to see the possible battle between Sabrina Ionescu, Kelsey Plum and Arike Ogunbowale for a spot, as the final roster might not have room for more than one non-Taurasi scoring guard who plays sometimes spotty defense. USA Basketball usually includes at least one future-focused player on an Olympic roster. For 2024, that honor seems destined for Aliyah Boston, who very well could establish herself as a present-focused player.
Looking ahead to further preparations in 2024
In early February, Team USA will compete in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, with the roster for that competition likely providing clarifying clues about the composition of the final Olympic roster. After that, USA Basketball will hold a training camp during the Final Four, providing players with another opportunity to earn their Olympic berth.
Some other noteworthy players with USA Basketball experience also could make their case for the summer of 2024 at that time, such as 2021 Olympians Napheesa Collier of the Minnesota Lynx and Skylar Diggins-Smith of (for now) the Phoenix Mercury or 2016 Olympian and 2018 World Cup winner Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics.