Asjha Jones of New Jersey is a member of the USA Women's Basketball team competing in London.
Team USA’s women’s basketball team is set to begin a 4-game 3-country preparation tour for the Olympic Games tonight in Washington DC against Brazil. I caught up quickly with center Asjha Jones after the team’s practice on Sunday to talk about the state of the team and their Olympic expectations.
Shannon Hovan: How would you assess the mental and physical state of the team just two weeks out of London?
Asjha Jones: I think the team is awesome. Everybody is really zoned in. You can’t tell that we’ve only been together for two days. It’s really a great atmosphere.
SH: How are you handling the demanding nature of your schedule? You’re coming right off of WNBA commitments and heading into a 10-day, 4-game, 3-country tour right before the games? Have you guys had any time off at all?
AJ: Well, actually, this is easier than the WNBA schedule. Some of us are coming off of playing 5 games in 8 days. It’s not as strenuous being here. Our WNBA schedules have us in great shape. Other countries have been training for a while, but the demanding nature of the WNBA has us in really great shape for London.
SH: Injuries always seem to find a way to happen at bad times – And I know Diana (Taurasi), Sue (Bird), Angel (McCoughtry) and Candace (Parker) have been nursing injuries recently – Has there been any concern regarding that?
AJ: Yea, you know with a 12-man roster, everyone thinks about it. But, it’s the nature of our business. We play hard and try not to worry. Diana and Sue, they look perfect to me. You can’t even tell they’re hurt. [Diana] She looks awesome. You can’t even tell that she hasn’t played in a while.
SH: How important are these four exhibition games coming up prior to the Olympics?
AJ: We need these games to get us ready. It’s the only time we get to play together before London. It’s great training for is and we get to see where we are and where we need to be.
SH: Taking that question a bit further, is it important to get just winning results or is it more about improving and gelling as a unit?
AJ: It’s all kind of the same category. When you put the USA jersey on you’re expected to win. When that doesn’t happen, people feel like the gap is closing. It’s like Coach Auriemma says: “We don’t want to win just because we have more talent than everyone else. We want to win because we play well together and we do things the right way.”
SH: I read that you were “shocked” and in “disbelief” when you heard you had claimed the final roster spot on the Olympic Team. Why is that? Had you written yourself off?
AJ: Well, initially I wasn’t on the team. So, when that twelfth spot opened after [Brittney] Griner got hurt, it was surprising for me to get that call because I had not made the initial team.
SH: What are the team’s expectations heading into London?
AJ: If we don’t win gold it’s gonna be a big deal. To do that, we just need to make sure that we do things the right way and not take any possessions off.
SH: Do you feel that pressure exists for you, your coaches and your teammates, more so than other athletes because of what this team has accomplished at the Olympic Games – Specifically winning gold 4 straight times, going back to 2006?
AJ: That’s what the expectations are. When you win like that you have a reputation of being dominant. We know the atmosphere that we create for ourselves and what is expected from us going into these games.
Asjha Jones, Team USA Basketball
We will continue our 2012 Team USA / London Olympics Interview Series all month leading up to the start of the Games. Find all the interviews and more Team USA coverage on the DoubleGSports.com Team USA page.