- Associated Press - Saturday, September 30, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - Dawn Staley is excited to lead her first USA Basketball camp as head coach of the national team.

She will oversee three days of training in Santa Barbara, California, this weekend. Originally 30 players were supposed to attend, but that number is down to 17 because of the WNBA Finals and some injuries.

“I’m ready to get things going,” Staley said Friday night in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We have a good group of players and you can’t beat that.”

While there might not be much national team experience at the camp, Staley thinks it will be a great chance for the players to learn and make an impression on the selection committee.

“They may think they have time, but we have limited training chances,” Staley said.

Staley will have the luxury of putting Sue Bird on the floor this weekend. Bird could play in her fifth world cup - previously known as the world championship - next year in Spain.

“Having Sue around, as a coach you want that,” Staley said. “As far as I’m concerned, she’s here and committed and wants to play in the 2020 Olympics. You don’t have a lot of people like Sue. She knows it’s a given, if she’s healthy and ready to go, she’ll be on the team.”

Bird has said this season that she’ll continue playing for USA Basketball if she’s healthy.

“I’m just taking it one year at a time,” Bird said Friday. “This camp I think it will be a lot of fun since it’s Dawn’s first camp as coach. There are a lot of young players who have a chance to learn.”

Bird and Seattle Storm teammate Breanna Stewart are the only two Olympians in camp. There are five current college players attending as well.

“I’m not going into this trying to seek out the college players and drop knowledge,” Bird said. “Those conversations come up naturally. Topics arise. I’m not going out of my way to do that as it happens organically.”

Bird was honored earlier in the week by the WNBA with the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship award.

“People see sportsmanship and think it means nicey-nicey,” said Bird, who also shared the award in 2011 with Ruth Riley. “You can go out there, compete and be tough and every now and then complain to refs casually. But also be respectful of the games and the opponents and your teammates while being super competitive. More than anything you’re being a role model for little kids.”

Bird said she enjoyed watching Perrot play when she was growing up. College players like Kelsey Mitchell and Asia Durr probably have the same feeling about playing with Bird this weekend.

“It’s huge for them, huge for their aspirations,” Staley said of the college players. “It’s huge for what the next step and what the next level is for them in their careers. I know that every time a youngster comes out to a national team training camp, there’s a huge transition. They are deer caught in headlights. I don’t think this will be any different.”

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