With just over a week before American basketball travels to Australia for the 2022 FIBA ​​World Cup, the Las Vegas training camp doesn’t show the many faces of the legendary program – some from the past two decades.

Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and other Team USA stalwarts Brittney Griner, Sylvia Fowles, and Tina Charles, a group that together has won 19 Olympic gold medals, are not on the court. As of now, neither Aja Wilson nor Breanna Stewart is set to join the team after winning her first WNBA title on Sunday.

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Instead, the camp is full of newcomers vying for a spot on the World Cup roster: a mix of up-and-coming stars like Sabrina Ionescu and Shakira Austin and more established players like Kalea Copper and Bethnia Laney who have yet to earn their way. challenges to two major international tournaments: the Olympics and the World Championships.

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“It’s difficult because the voids are everywhere,” said Cheryl Reeve, who replaced national team coach from Don Staley in December.

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With Riva’s first major international tournament at the helm starting Wednesday against Belgium (9:20 pm ET on Sportzshala+), viewers will see for the first time how one of the sport’s most successful dynasties handles a massive changing of the guard. The final roster includes one player aged 30 (Alyssa Thomas) and a total of five players from the 2020 Olympic team. On a horse? Fourth consecutive World Championship medal since 2010.

USA Basketball has also lost just one game in its last six World Championships (formerly known as the World Championship) and has an even longer winning streak at the Olympics, despite sometimes rocky results in Tokyo.

“We’re having a little transition,” Stewart told Sportzshala. “But it really gives an opportunity for young players to come in and show what they can do and help take US basketball to the next level – and understand that everyone wants to beat us.

“No one wants us to win gold. And yet, our goal every time we play is to win everything.”

Lineup turnover and late arrivals are nothing new for Team USA, but this year in particular, the group has faced huge uncertainty. Bird and Fowles announced their retirement earlier this year. Taurasi suffered a quadriceps injury at the end of the WNBA season. Charles said she felt she had “served her time”. And no one could have foreseen the absence of Griner, illegally detained in Russia for more than 200 days, or Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nafisa Collier, who took part in the Tokyo Olympics for the first time. The former left the Phoenix Mercury midway through the season for personal reasons, while the latter is still returning from maternity leave.

Stewart, Wilson, Jewell Loyd, Ariel Atkins and Chelsea Gray are the only players with 5v5 Olympic experience, while Kelsey Plum (3×3), Stewart, Wilson and Loyd are the only ones who competed in the previous World Championship. Cup in 2018. Wilson, Gray and Plum will arrive in Sydney after winning the 2022 WNBA title with the Las Vegas Aces and celebrating with a parade on the Strip. Brionna Jones and Thomas of the 2022 runners-up Connecticut Sun will also be late.

And Sydney will celebrate the US basketball debuts of Jones, Thomas, Ionescu, Laney, Copper and Austin in a major international competition.


Returnees

Stewart and Wilson are direct heirs of the US basketball dynasty, especially since the Tokyo Olympics. Along with Griner, they were the only ones to average double figures in Tokyo, with 15.0 and 16.5 points per game, respectively.

The handover took place almost instantly.

“After we won the gold, [Bird] said, “Okay, now it’s your turn,” said Wilson, who won her second WNBA MVP Trophy, first Defensive Player of the Year award and first WNBA title this year. “I’m like, ‘Huh? Come to think of it, it’s me and Stewie. Everybody left”.

Where previously Stewart and Wilson could look to Byrd, Taurasi, Fowles and others as veteran leaders, they are now charged with taking up the mantle in Australia.

“I don’t know who’s going to be talking during breaks now,” Wilson said, chuckling nervously. “We will deal with this. But no, it’s great. They laid a great foundation for us to be the next generation to carry the torch.

“I’m probably scared, but I’m also excited to be able to go back there with other great players. Let’s go and get this gold.”

Heading off to her third World Cup, Stewart, who arrived in Australia days after Team USA’s majority, is the most experienced player left. She is one of only two (the other being Seattle Storm teammate Loyd) current roster players to average at least 20 minutes per game in the 2018 World Cup.

Stewart is especially aware of his responsibilities as a leader.

“Make sure everyone is comfortable, adapt and learn, rather than taking those moments for granted,” she said. “I think it’s a little selfish if you don’t speak up and use your experience to help others, so I really want to make sure I use that to my advantage and help the team as much as possible. for what we do here in Australia, but also for whether they go abroad, off-season or otherwise.”

She and Wilson won’t have to do it alone. Gray and Loyd, who averaged just under 20 minutes per game in Tokyo, will help shore up the backcourt with Atkins. Grey, 29, one of the oldest members of the World Championship team and a recent WNBA Finals MVP, will be particularly in demand as a general amid Byrd’s retirement and the absence of Diggins-Smith.

“I definitely want to be involved in preserving this heritage and be part of this team,” she said. “I think we can continue with this. We have people who have experience, and there will be new people. It’s always forming, it’s moving, and it’s also interesting.”

Loyd said, “It’s obviously going to be a little different.” Everyone has different learning styles, leadership styles. But I know that we are not alone here. We’ve learned a lot from our veterans and now we’re ready to move on.”

Even Atkins, who had a limited role off the bench at the Olympics, is taking on extra reps as point guard until Gray arrives. She hopes she can bring to Australia some of the leadership qualities she saw during her time in Tokyo.

“Just their ability to either calm people down or inspire them,” Atkins said of what she absorbed from the greats she played with in her first Olympics. “I just think it was really great for me to learn how to get us moving and how to get us to do certain things to help us score. Even Chelsea was the point guard for us in the US. It’s just their ability to ride the wave of the team and kind of channel it more than just letting it flow.”


Beginners

Reeve believes that the many gaps in the team are just an opportunity for new faces to fill them. Experienced WNBA players Jones, Thomas, Copper and Laney are expected to do so. They, along with Austin, should strengthen the strength of the national team on the perimeter and below.

“They’ve been around for a while, and now it’s their moment to take advantage of it,” Stewart said. “Besides, it just shows their experience in the WNBA and how they carry over to the court.”

Thomas and Jones competed in a two-game World Championship qualifier in February, but Copper never competed against USA Basketball. However, she has established herself as the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP with the Chicago Sky and as the 2022 Euroleague Regular Season MVP with Spain’s Perfumerias Avenida.

“I just love that it’s the best of the best,” Copper said. “It’s not about one person, it’s not about two people. Everyone has to bring something different and that’s what I do. It’s cool. I’ve never been a part of it. It’s the highest level for me. … I I’m just grateful that I’m here.”

Camp also included the top three players in the 2022 WNBA draft Ryan Howard, Nalissa Smith and Austin, as well as current National Collegiate Player of the Year Alia Boston. Austin and Ionescu were the only players under 25 to make the final cut.

“It’s nice to see a lot of young players,” Ionescu said. “It’s very interesting because I feel like the game just changes and continues to be at a very high level, and it doesn’t start from year 8, but from year 1, 2 and 3. It will only make us all better. … It will only make American basketball better.”

The New York Liberty point guard won three gold medals in various competitions for the USA Basketball team before being selected to the WNBA, but then missed time with Team USA after spending the past two years recovering from an ankle injury. After a strong WNBA season in which she received her first All-WNBA nod, she is another option to fill the void with the absence of Byrd, Taurasi and Diggins-Smith.

“I think after having a good season and continuing to grow as a point guard and as a defender in this league, I kind of understand what I need to do day in and day out and how I can keep improving my teammates and also learn from them,” Ionescu said. “And so I think that by coming to this camp, I understood that and I want to take on that role and also continue to listen and learn from the many veterans who have won gold medals and who were in the position that I was in.” .


A New Look at American Basketball

Reeve has an idea of ​​how she wants her team to play: fast. They can dictate the pace even more if they control the glass and defend using their length and athleticism.

According to players, Reeve demands greatness and has no problem telling players when they screw up. During the camp, she admitted that she mainly trained her current group as they were waiting for the rest of the team to join her. Her first major test on the international stage will depend on how quickly she can get the team together and how she can help the players learn…