The USA Basketball Program announced its 21 finalists for the 2012 Olympic team on Monday, and among them is the LA Sparks Candace Parker. Parker was also a member of the gold medal winning American squad in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the bronze medal winning team in the 2006 World Championship.
(We have) players that have won (Olympic) gold medals, won World Championships, there are WNBA champions on the list, players that have won in Europe in international competition, said USA and UCONN head coach Geno Auriemma who has lead the national program since 2009. There is a culture of winning. There is a culture of excellence. There is a commitment from the players that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. These 21 finalists represent the best of what the United States has to offer.
Joining Parker in a group of probable front runners are two-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi. In all, she is one of nine finalists that already have won Olympic gold.
The program will be vying for its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal and seventh overall in London this summer. They will also be attempting to extend a 33-game Olympic winning streak.
With less than six months to go before the Opening Ceremonies in London, the selection committee will have the difficult task of narrowing these 21 finalists down to 12 teammates. Auriemma is far from worried about this process.
I think its going to be the committee coming together and saying what combination of these players gives up the best advantage to win? And that would make me happy. That allows different ways that you can go. I feel pretty good about the flexibility and versatility of this group.
Auriemma says this group of finalists reminds him of the 2004 Athens team.
You had a real interesting combination of young and old veterans. Now its starting that process over again, said Auriemma. I think its a perfect combination for us. Were not too old. Were not too young. Weve got some in the middle.
But with the group still left to be narrowed down, there is still a specific set of criteria Auriemma would like to see. The philosophy he uses to recruit his own college players bleeds right into what he would like to have in his national team.
You have to be okay not being the center of attention. You have to understand that its not about you. Its about our team. Its about our country, explains Auriemma. You also want kids that are very versatile, that arent limited to just one position.
Despite the talent at guard on the list, Auriemma wants to refrain from becoming a guard-oriented team.
I would rather not play with an oriented team leaning in any one direction. In order to win at that level you need to have all the answers to every question that is going to come up.
But above all, Auiemma wants one thing out of his 2012 Olympic roster.
I want players that are winners.
Gold medal winners to be precise.
2012 U.S. OLYMPIC WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM FINALISTS:
Jayne Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars), Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx), Swin Cash (Chicago Sky), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), Brittney Griner (Baylor University), Lindsey Harding (Atlanta Dream), Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun), Kara Lawson (Connecticut Sun), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Renee Montgomery (Connecticut Sun), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Candace Parker(Los Angeles Sparks), Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) and Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars).