Mystics players Lindsey Harding and Crystal Langhorne are headed to Russia as selcted members of the U.S. national team that will play in the four-team 2009 Ekaterinburg International Invitational from Oct. 9-11.
It is certainly good news for Harding and Langhorne in their quest to be on the team that will play in the 2010 FIBA World Championship and ultimately, if it qualifies, the 2012 London Olympics. They stood out to USA Basketball officials at the six-day fall training camp that just concluded at American’s Bender Arena.
“It’s a testament to Lang and Lindsey as individuals and how hard they worked on their game,” Mystics’ All-Star Alana Beard said. “I thought both of them really improved their game from when they first came into the league.”
While a good start, their selection to play in this weekend’s tournament doesn’t guarantee by any means a spot on the final roster for this Olympic cycle. No cuts have been made yet and the U.S. roster still remains at 23 players. The roster will remain fluid with no decisions likely made until next fall, right before the FIBA World Championship. The team officials are still very much in the evaluative stage.
“We found out a lot about ourselves in the last six days,” U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. “Some of these guys who are here didn’t know me, I didn’t know them. Now I’m anxious and I know these guys are anxious to go and see if what we know transfers over to games. I know we know how to practice and I know we know how to do drills. Now we’re going to find out if we can take that, transfer it over to game situations and see if I can identify those players who know how to win.”
Beard was invited to the training camp but did not participate because her sprained left ankle is still not fully healed — she was among several injured players attended the camp but sat out. It certainly would have helped her cause if she could have played, but Beard will have a chance to impress at future training camps — one in the spring and another next September.
But one thing is for sure at this point: the presence of the Mystics in the WNBA playoffs this year went a long way for Beard, Harding and Langhorne being among the hopefuls for the national team.
“I think it has a lot to do with what you do in the WNBA that brings you here. If you play well, that’s where they kind of recognize you and pull you,” Harding said. “Lang has been the most consistent so she should be here. Alana has been the Mystics since she was drafted. And I tried to step in and be the point guard this team needed. So I’m definitely not shocked that we’re all here.”