USA Basketball names 21 players to senior team pool

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Twenty-one players were named to the 2007-08 USA women's senior national team pool on Tuesday.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) and two-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith (Detroit Shock) headline the group of seasoned veterans and rising stars. The squad will train together over the next two years as the U.S. women attempts to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship. Team USA is the three-time defending Olympic gold medalist.

The players selected to compete in the 2007 and 2008 international competitions will likely come from this player pool, which includes three Tennessee Lady Vols in Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Michelle Snow (Houston Comets) and sophomore Candace Parker.

Ohio State senior Jessica Davenport, Oklahoma sophomore Courtney Paris and LSU junior Sylvia Fowles are the only other collegians in the group.

Also on the roster are: Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Alana Beard (Washington Mystics), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Swin Cash (Detroit Shock), Katie Douglas (Connecticut Sun), Cheryl Ford (Detroit Shock), Taj McWilliams-Franklin (Los Angeles Sparks), DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics), Deanna Nolan (Detroit Shock), Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix Mercury), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) and Lindsay Whalen (Connecticut Sun).

The USA's next chance to qualify for the 2008 Olympics will be at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, Sept. 25-29 in Valdivia, Chile. The gold medalist at that tournament will earn a berth to the Beijing Olympic 12-nation field. In addition to the USA, teams participating in the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship will be Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico. Should the United States not return home from Chile with the gold medal, there will be one final chance to qualify for the Olympics, at the 2008 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament on June 9-15 at a site to be determined.

The complete USA Women's Senior National Team training plans, which will include domestic and international training camps and competition through 2008, will be announced at a later date.

Heading the USA Basketball women's senior national team through 2008 is WNBA Seattle Storm head coach and four-time U.S. Olympic team member Anne Donovan, who was on the 1980, 1984 and 1988 squads as a player and was an assistant coach for the 2004 team. She will be assisted by 2006 WNBA coach of the year Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Duke and Temple's Dawn Staley.

"The parity at the top level of the women's international game is at an all-time high, and we recognize that our national team program needs to be adaptable in order to put the U.S. in the best possible position to re-claim the gold medal in Beijing and beyond," USA Basketball President Val Ackerman said. "By including a larger number of players in the program, we hope to create a more competitive training environment for the team, as well as accelerate the development of the young players who we will count on to continue our winning tradition in the future."

Added committee chair Reneé Brown: "We have identified some of the top young candidates who will take the torch from our veteran leadership … and run with it well into the future. … If you look back, that's what USA Basketball has been doing for decades -- the torch has been passed from Pat Summitt and Anne Donovan to Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain. They have lent their leadership to Lisa [Leslie], Sheryl and Dawn, who are in the process of passing it along to our next generation of players."

The USA senior team's 21 members own a combined 11 Olympic and eight World Championship gold medals, as well as numerous medals from other international competitions as all 21 members have donned a USA Basketball uniform in the past. The list also includes a pair of USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year award winners, including Augustus (2003) and Taurasi (2006).

All 17 professional players on the roster have been named as a WNBA All-Star and 14 have earned either All-WNBA first- or second-team honors at least once. Bird, Catchings, Smith, Swoopes and Thompson were named to the WNBA All-Decade Team, while Taurasi was an honorable mention. Three of the seven WNBA All-Star MVPs are on the list, including Douglas (2006), Swoopes (2005) and Thompson (2000); as well as three of the last seven league MVPs in Swoopes (2000, 2002, 2005); five of the last seven WNBA Defensive Players of the Year in Catchings (2005, 2006) and Swoopes (2000, 2003, 2004); and three of the last four WNBA Rookies of the Year in Augustus (2006), Catchings (2002), Ford (2003) and Taurasi (2004).

Host China and 2006 FIBA World Championship gold medalist Australia have earned automatic berths to the 2008 Olympic women's basketball tournament. Five additional teams will punch their ticket to Beijing at the 2007 FIBA zone championships as the gold medalists in each of the FIBA zones (Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania) qualify to compete in Beijing.