US ready for opener against Czech Republic
BEIJING (AP) Anne Donovan has had one goal since being named the U.S. women's basketball coach in 2006: Be ready for the Olympics. Now that time is finally here and despite just eight days of training camp, the Americans say they are ready to begin their journey for a fourth-straight gold medal.
The U.S. plays the Czech Republic Saturday in their opener.
"I could not ask for one bit more than this team has given," Donovan said. "They have been so committed. Our first game against Latvia wasn't our strongest, but we played better every day. I think the same thing can be said here from our game on Saturday through the medal round. We will get better."
The U.S. is confident after winning the gold medal in the FIBA Diamond Ball tuneup tournament where they beat Australia in a very physical championship game. However, despite the win against Australia, the U.S. players know that the real show begins Saturday.
"This was great confidence for us going into the Olympics, but this was a pre-tournament," first-time Olympian Candace Parker said after the Diamond Ball title. "Our goal is to win the Olympic gold medal."
Up first for the Americans is a matchup with the Czech Republic. While the U.S. is still developing its own chemistry having only played together for two weeks, their first opponent has been playing together for years.
"It's an interesting team because they are very experienced having come up together through the junior ranks," Donovan said. "It's their second Olympics now. Since they came up together, we know them very well. They are big and will try and press us, but it's their experience that we have to break down as they play very well together."
Diana Taurasi, who scored 21 points in the Americans' win against Russia in a Diamond Ball game, has played overseas with a lot of the Czech players.
"That's probably one of the teams that is scary because they have played together for so long," Taurasi said. "They play together in the offseason. They are very big and physical, and should be a great first game for us."
Other opening day games: In the Americans' pool, Mali faces New Zealand and Spain plays China. In the other bracket, Belarus takes on Australia, Brazil meets South Korea, and Russia plays Latvia.
The Czech's qualified for the Olympics by finishing in the top four at the FIBA last-chance qualifier in June, led by forward Eva Viteckova and guard Hana Machova.
Despite the limited training time, three-time Olympian and co-captain Katie Smith says the U.S. is ready to go.
"I think we're there," she said. "Let's just go out and show it and prove it. Lay it on the floor every night."