Sep 14, 2014 11:56 AM
Tough choices ahead to determine US hoops roster
The Associated Press
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) Nneka Ogwumike isn't worried about whether or not she'll make the U.S. women's basketball team for the world championship at the end of the month. She's just focused on playing the best she can and letting the rest take care of itself.
Ogwumike scored 26 points in the Red-White intrasquad game Thursday night. She made 13 of her 15 shots and had 12 rebounds.
"You just have to go out and play basketball and not really care about the other stuff," said Ogwumike, who was on the second team All-WNBA this season. "When you start focusing on things that you can't control then you're not going to do what you can do."
While very few of the 17 players in training camp have ever worried about getting cut from any basketball team, it's a stark reality that they all can't be on the U.S. team that will be playing in Turkey at the end of the month. Teams have until right before the worlds start on Sept. 27 to submit its roster. The selection committee might need all that time to figure out who will be on the team.
"It's not going to be easy," U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said of paring down the roster. "Getting to this number wasn't as easy as it's been in the past. In the past it might have been very simple trying to find out who the 12 best players in the country are. Everybody knew who they were. Boom, let's do it. Fifteen at the max."
But as the talent pool has increased, life has become harder for the selection committee.
"Now, you get to 20 and you still go, 'Well, what about this guy? What about that guy?' So, we're in an enviable situation as far as that's concerned that we have many more choices than we used to," Auriemma said.
The Americans have eight returning Olympians in the pool, who as Auriemma put it aren't guaranteed to make the team, but certainly have a leg up. That would potentially leave four spots for the remaining players.
"There's a gap between those who have won two or three gold medals and everyone else," Auriemma said. "But there's an athletic ability and a youthful hunger among the younger players."
Young stars Brittney Griner (eye) and Elena Delle Donne (back) both have a great shot of making the final roster if they're healthy. Neither has been at the latest training camp because they were playing in the WNBA Finals which ended Friday night.
Throw in the Ogwumike sisters, Skylar Diggins, UConn junior Breanna Stewart and the number already is above 12. Nneka Ogwumike and her younger sister Chiney have been impressive in camp with their knack of getting offensive rebounds and finishing on the fastbreak.
"There definitely is a lot of young talent out there," said selection committee member Dan Hughes. "There's going to be a lot of players that could be on this team and it's our job to figure out which 12 are going to fit the best."
Even if they don't make it this time around, the future looks bright with so much young talent. The American women have not lost a major international game since the 2006 world championship semifinals, when they fell to Russia. They have won two Olympic gold medals and one world championship gold since then. That trend is set to continue in Istanbul where the Americans are heavy favorites to win a second straight world title.
"I've tried to be a sponge taking in as much as I can from everybody," Stewart said. "What I'll take away from this camp is how hard the WNBA players work and how quickly the game is played at the next level."
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