- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 14, 2010

UNCASVILLE, CONN. (AP) - For most leagues, the All-Star break is a time for players and fans to relax and have some fun. For the WNBA, the All-Star break included some serious business.

It was the first and only opportunity for all the players in the U.S. national basketball pool to be in camp before the World Championship in the Czech Republic this fall. Over the past decade it has been nearly impossible for the Americans to get all of their players in the same place at the same time with many of them competing overseas in the winter or making the WNBA finals.

Coach Geno Auriemma allowed The Associated Press exclusive access to the team and coaches during its training camp at WNBA All-Star weekend.


MEET AND GREET: Practice started Thursday night with a decade’s worth of UConn domination on the court. The old guard of Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Diana Taurasi and Ashja Jones teaming with young stars Renee Montgomery, Tina Charles and Maya Moore.

It was the first camp that Taurasi had attended since Auriemma took over.

“It was just like old times,” Taurasi said. “You remember all the little things he taught way back when and how much he knows about this game.”

After a quick session with the media it was time to get down to work. At first the practice looked eerily similar to a UConn alumni game. Duke graduate Lindsey Harding walked on the court to warm up and saw the “UConn seven” on one side and playfully started walking the other way as if she didn’t belong before joining them to shoot around.

Auriemma ran the group through drills and many offensive sets. Having so many former UConn players around made life easy for some of the camp newcomers since they could quickly explain drills they had done for years.

It was evident from the start that this wasn’t about getting ready for an All-Star game. The team was practicing with a purpose. Auriemma even said to treat the weekend not as an All-Star game, but as a Final Four or WNBA finals.

Everyone is vying for a spot at the Worlds, and assuming everyone remains healthy for the remainder of the season, it will be a difficult task to find the right mix. That responsibility falls on the U.S basketball selection committee.

Some of whom were on the sidelines all weekend watching and evaluating.


DECISIONS, DECISIONS: After the 2-hour workout, the team went back to the Mohegan Sun and had dinner at Auriemma’s restaurant. The biggest decision that night for the players wasn’t where LeBron James would end up, but what to eat with choices on the menu including a Sue Bird (chicken cheesesteak), Diana Taurasi (eggplant Italian dish) or Tina Charles (lobster roll). The players stuck to the basics.

They did turn to the TVs at 9 p.m. _ along with much of the rest of the country _ to watch James’ decision. Most already had a feeling he was headed to Miami. However their attention quickly went back to the food and conversation when it was evident that James wouldn’t reveal his choice in the first 10 minutes of the broadcast.

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