May 31, 2008, 7:29 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 31, 2008) - Headlined by three-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) and two-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith (Detroit Shock), USA Basketball today announced the first nine members of the eventual 12-member 2008 U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team that will head to Beijing in hopes of defending the USA's string of three consecutive Olympic gold medals. In addition to Leslie and Smith, the initial roster includes 2004 Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets); while Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) and Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix Mercury) will participate in their first Olympic Games.

The USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee will continue to discuss the final three roster spots before finalizing the 12-member team by July 1.

"I'm just thrilled to have these nine players officially named to the team," said U.S. Olympic head coach Anne Donovan. "It's such a great mixture of Olympic gold medalists with some really tremendous young talent. I love the combination of players that we have. We have Olympians who have experienced multiple Games like Lisa Leslie and Katie Smith, some who are returning for their second Olympics and then we have a very talented group of first-timers. Looking at these nine players, we've really covered the gamut in terms of experience and we have a tremendous balance of perimeter and post play."

"We know it will not be an easy road to the gold medal in Beijing, the rest of the world has gotten much better over the last four years," said USA Basketball vice president for senior women and chair of the selection committee Reneé Brown, WNBA chief of basketball operations and player relations. "However, we feel that this group will continue to represent their country with pride and honor and compete at the highest level that is expected when representing USA Basketball. All of these athletes have played for Anne in the past, work well together and know her system. These are nine great players who are ready to face any challenge.

"We still have three more players to add to the team and we're hoping to add a tough defensive stopper on the perimeter who can also score for us, as well as at least another post player. The Committee will continue to look at all the remaining players in our pool, it's not a decision we take lightly. It will be a tough decision."

Not only does the '08 squad possess a combined eight Olympic gold medals, the athletes own a wealth of international experience. All nine have worn red, white and blue and returned to the United States with at least one gold. Included are seven who have competed at a FIBA World Championship, including Leslie and Smith, who garnered gold in 1998 and 2002. Also winning gold at the 2002 Worlds, where Leslie captured MVP honors, were Bird and Thompson; while Augustus, Bird, Parker, Smith, Taurasi and Thompson were all members of the 2006 USA World Championship Team that took the bronze medal with an 8-1 slate.

In 2007, Augustus, Bird, Parker, Pondexter, Smith, Taurasi and Thompson played key roles in the USA's Olympic qualifying berth. The seven helped the U.S. strike gold with an unblemished 5-0 record at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship where only the winner earned the right to advance to Beijing.

FIBA conducted the draw to determine the Olympic preliminary round pools and schedule on April 26 in Beijing. The U.S. women were selected for Group B, as were host China, Africa champ Mali, New Zealand and two teams to be determined through the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament that takes place June 9-15 in Madrid, Spain.

Group A for the women's competition features 2006 FIBA world champion Australia, Russia, South Korea, and three teams that will be determined through the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The Olympic women's basketball competition will be held Aug. 9-23. Preliminary play is scheduled for August 9, 11, 13, 15 and 17; quarterfinal action takes place Aug. 19; semifinal play is slated for Aug. 21; and the women's finals will be held Aug. 23.

The U.S. Women's Olympic Team opens Aug. 9 versus an opponent to be determined through the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and next faces host China on Aug. 11, Mali on Aug. 13 and another opponent to be determined on Aug. 15. The U.S. finishes off its preliminary play Aug. 17 against New Zealand. All game times are still to be assigned.

The defending Olympic champs, the USA women in fact will be vying for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold. Since women's basketball was officially staged at the 1976 Olympics, the Americans have collected a record five gold medals, one silver and one bronze medal, while compiling a 42-3 (.933) overall record in seven Olympic appearances (the United States chose not to participate in the 1980 Olympic Games).

The 2007-08 USA Basketball Women's National Team participated in six different training camps over the past 15 months, while the USA Select Team, featuring members of the USA National Team, competed in the 2007 FIBA World League Tournament. During the team's training the USA compiled a 25-2 mark against nine different national teams and five professional club teams, earned the gold medal at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship and the silver medal at the 2008 Good Luck Beijing Tournament. Additionally, the USA Select Team posted a 3-2 slate, brought home the silver medal from the 2007 FIBA World League Tournament and notched victories against a pair of Russia's top professional teams and the defending Australia WNBL champs.

Donovan is being assisted on the sidelines by Mike Thibault, head coach of the WNBA Connecticut Sun and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of the University of Texas and the University of South Carolina's Dawn Staley.

The 2007-08 USA Basketball Women's National Team features a total of 29 athletes on its roster, which was selected by the USA Basketball Women's National Team Committee. The final three members of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team will come from the USA National Team roster. In addition to Brown, the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee includes: athlete representatives Jennifer Azzi, a 1996 U.S. Olympic Team member, and Teresa Edwards, a five-time Olympian; New York Liberty Vice President and General Manager Carol Blazejowski, Minnesota Lynx Chief Operating Officer Roger Griffith, Indiana Fever Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf and Los Angeles Sparks General Manager Penny Toler serve as the WNBA representatives on the Committee; while University of Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt is the NCAA representative.

USA Basketball is the national governing body responsible for men's and women's basketball in the United States and is responsible for representing the USA in international competitions.
The selected players will be nominated to the United States Olympic Committee to participate in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.










Author:

Jenny Maag



Organization:

USA Basketball



Phone:

719-590-4800

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