USA Basketball has decided not to include Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker on the final 12-player roster that will represent the United States at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this August, she confirmed Tuesday.
Parker is 30 years old and has said she's fully healthy heading into this WNBA season. She sat out half of the 2015 WNBA season to rest injuries, but she rallied the Sparks to the playoffs after her return, averaging 19.4 points and a career-high 6.3 assists and 10.1 rebounds per game. She finished the season in the top five in the WNBA in points, blocks and steals per game.
"I was surprised and disappointed,'' Parker told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Having gone to last two Olympics, I know what it means to represent the USA. I wish everybody on the team good luck. The USA is going to win a sixth gold medal.''
She said she received a call from national team director Carol Callan last week informing her of USA Basketball's decision.
"I was surprised, very surprised, but it's tough on her,'' Parker said. "I was looking forward to this summer. I played well up until this point. Played well in both camps. I felt like my game is still in its prime.''
When contacted Monday, USA Basketball declined to comment.
Parker is a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2008 and '12) and two-time WNBA MVP (2008 and '13).
"You feel it's bigger than yourself, representing your entire country,'' Parker told the AP. "It means a lot to put that USA across your chest. I wore it with a lot of pride, didn't carry it lightly.''
In October during USA Basketball's four-game European tour, Parker had a triple-double. She averaged a team-high 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in helping the U.S. women to a 4-0 record.
At the 2012 Olympics, Parker led Team USA in rebounding and ranked fourth among all competitors in the 12-team field for rebounds (7.8 per game). She had team highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds in the gold-medal victory over France.
The final 12-player 2016 U.S. Olympic women's basketball team will be announced Wednesday. The team is selected by the USA Basketball women's national team player selection committee. UConn coach Geno Auriemma returns as coach following a gold-medal run in 2012.
USA Basketball released a list of 25 finalists, including Parker, in late January and hosted a three-day camp in February in Storrs, Connecticut, that Parker and fellow vets Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles were unable to attend. Ten of the players who helped lead the U.S. women to gold in London were vying for a spot on the 2016 roster.
With Parker off the team, it is likely that Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart, who play the same position as Parker, will make their first Olympic rosters. The roster is expected to be announced Wednesday.
"I feel like any 12 of our top 25 players on the USA team, you put them out there and they'll win a gold medal,'' Parker told the Associated Press. "I'm disappointed because this is one of the best teams to play USA basketball that I can remember. It hurts a little bit not to be part of it.''
Parker could still potentially make the team as an alternate. With the WNBA season set to begin on May 14, there is a chance that one of the 12 members of the team could get injured before the Olympics.
"I'll cross that bridge when it happens,'' she said. "I'm older and more mature and feel like I take things as they come. They made their decision and I have to respect it.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.