USA Basketball: Experience, not popularity, vital for Olympics after Clark omission

USA Basketball Caitlin Clark’s lack of experience was the main factor in her omission from the US Olympic women’s roster that was officially unveiled on Tuesday.

The selection committee didn’t believe Clark, who broke scoring records in college before joining the WNBA this year amid huge hype, had enough high-level experience. The team consists of seven players from the group that won gold in Tokyo – the seventh consecutive time for the US.

Jen Rizzotti, chair of the selection committee, said the committee was aware of the noise and outside pressure to select Clark, the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft who has attracted millions of new fans to the sport, but it during her first year as a professional has sometimes been difficult. .

“These are the basketball criteria that we have been given as a committee and how do we evaluate our players based on that?” said Rizzotti. “And if you base your decision on criteria, there were other players who were harder to remove because they ticked a lot more boxes. Then sometimes it comes down to position and playing style [USA head coach] Cheryl [Reeve] and then sometimes a mood.”

Diana Taurasi returns to the Games for the sixth time at the age of 42. Her Olympic career began when she was a WNBA rookie at the 2004 Athens Games. Other returnees from the Tokyo Olympics include Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd and Brittney Griner.

The U.S. also added newcomers Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, who helped the U.S. win the inaugural 3×3 gold medal at the 2021 Tokyo Games. Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu and Kahleah Copper will join the team as new Olympians. All three played on the American team that won the 2022 World Cup in Australia.

“It’s a great mix of talent across the board in terms of individual skills,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said. “We have veterans, newcomers and people in the middle. A good perspective and continuity are so important and that is why we were successful at the Olympic Games.”

All twelve players have experience in the senior national team. Not Clark.

“She’s definitely going to keep getting better and better,” Tooley said. “I really hope she will be a big part of our future moving forward.”

The selection committee has a set of criteria to choose the team, which takes into account playing ability, position and adaptability to the international game. Marketing and popularity are not on that list.

“It would be irresponsible of us to talk about her in any other way than how she would impact the team’s play,” Rizzotti said. “Because it was not our committee’s authority to decide how many people would watch or how many people would advocate for the US. Our goal was to create the best team we could for Cheryl.”