BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Nneka Ogwumike isn’t worried about whether or not she’ll make the U.S. women’s basketball team for the world championship at the end of the month. She’s just focused on playing the best she can and letting the rest take care of itself.
Ogwumike scored 26 points in the Red-White intrasquad game Thursday night. She made 13 of her 15 shots and had 12 rebounds.
“You just have to go out and play basketball and not really care about the other stuff,” said Ogwumike, who was on the second team All-WNBA this season. “When you start focusing on things that you can’t control then you’re not going to do what you can do.”
While very few of the players in training camp have ever worried about getting cut from any basketball team, it’s a stark reality that they all can’t be on the U.S. team that will be playing in Turkey at the end of the month. Teams have until Sept. 25 to have their final roster set. The selection committee might need all that time to figure out who will be on the team.
After scrimmaging Canada on Sunday morning, the U.S. cut Briann January, Chiney Ogwumike, Bria Hartley and Danielle Robinson. That leaves the Americans with 13 players for Monday night’s exhibition game with their northern neighbors. Returning Olympians Sue Bird, Angel McCoughtry, Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Seimone Augustus will be joined in the exhibition game by Kayla McBride, Nneka Ogwumike, Skylar Diggins, Odyssey Sims, Breanna Stewart, Jantel Lavender and Stefanie Dolson.
“All the players knew that today was going to be the day that we were going to try to get to 12,” said U.S. coach Geno Auriemma. “As it turns out, the committee kind of got stuck between number 13 and number 12 so we decided to stay at 13 for tomorrow’s game and take 13 over to Europe with us. Then we’ll add those that are coming, that played in the championship series.”
The Americans have eight returning Olympians in the pool, who as Auriemma put it aren’t guaranteed to make the team, but certainly have a leg up. That would potentially leave four spots for the remaining players.
“There’s a gap between those who have won two or three gold medals and everyone else,” Auriemma said. “But there’s an athletic ability and a youthful hunger among the younger players.”
Young stars Brittney Griner (eye) and Elena Delle Donne (back) both have a great shot of making the final roster if they’re healthy. Neither has been at the latest training camp because they were playing in the WNBA Finals, which ended Friday night.
“There definitely is a lot of young talent out there,” said selection committee member Dan Hughes. “There’s going to be a lot of players that could be on this team and it’s our job to figure out which 12 are going to fit the best.”
Even if they don’t make it this time around, the future looks bright with so much young talent. The American women have not lost a major international game since the 2006 world championship semifinals, when they fell to Russia. They have won two Olympic gold medals and one world championship gold since then. That trend is set to continue in Istanbul where the Americans are heavy favorites to win a second straight world title.
“For the players who are not moving forward, it’s as much about timing in terms of who’s in their position, the number and experience of players in their position,” Auriemma said. “They were great, they worked hard, they are devoted to USA Basketball and they did everything we have asked them to do. They all have a future in the game, in USA Basketball and we made sure they know that. But the 13 that we have represent the best that we have right now and we’re only going to get better when we add those guys that are coming later this week.”
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