NEW YORK (AP) - Lindsay Whalen has decided to retire from USA Basketball.
Don’t worry Minnesota Lynx fans, she still plans to play in the WNBA for a few more years.
“I felt like it was a good time to step away from USA Basketball,” Whalen told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “I never imagined I’d be on the 2012 and ‘16 Olympic teams and have it end with that in Rio. I felt good about that. Obviously, I went back and forth a lot. I love USA Basketball and the culture around it. I loved the time I had with the other players you get to play with.”
Whalen won two Olympic gold medals and two at the world championships. Last fall, she was picked for the 2017-20 national team pool, but decided after long consideration to stop playing for the U.S. The 35-year-old felt that she wouldn’t be able to fully commit the time necessary to be part of the 2020 Olympic team and felt it was time to give someone else a chance.
“If I had played in worlds (this year), and a year or two from now had said I’m ready to be done playing, that wouldn’t be fair to them,” Whalen said.
Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have already said they hope to play in the 2020 Olympics, if healthy. If Whalen had stayed, that would’ve given the U.S. three players close to 40 in the backcourt.
Now the U.S. can look to find a young guard to be groomed by Bird, Taurasi and coach Dawn Staley.
“This player will get these training camps and earn their spot like I did and learn from two of the best guards all time - three when you include the coach. Whoever it will be will have a wealth of knowledge to lean on,” Whalen said.
The U.S. will hold a training camp next weekend in South Carolina with 22 players expected to attend, including young guards Skylar Diggins-Smith, Layshia Clarendon, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum.
“Lindsay Whalen is probably my favorite point guard of all time, and that’s nothing against Sue Bird. But, Lindsay, I like her swag. I like her toughness. I like her mindset,” Staley said. “She’s always thinking about ways in which to out-fox the opponent. I’m just sad that I don’t get an opportunity to coach her in this capacity, but I’m glad that I got a chance to coach her when I was an assistant coach on the 2014 and 2016 USA teams.”
While Whalen will always cherish the Olympic gold medals she’s won, her favorite memory was her first time playing with USA Basketball. She was on the Under-21 World Championship qualifying team and playing in Brazil. She was 20 at the time.
“It was the second time I had been out of the country and when we went to Brazil, we ate at every Brazilian steakhouse. I’d never seen anything like it,” Whalen recalled, laughing. “I also was obsessed with jerseys then. I was wearing a Brazilian soccer jersey to and from practices and the fans loved it. I got to know some Brazilians because of it.”
Whalen has kept busy this winter after helping the Lynx win their fourth title in seven years. She’s been a broadcaster on some Minnesota Timberwolves and college games.
“I liked this angle of the game,” she said. “Being close to the action, breaking down a team. Watching video has helped me this season,” Whalen said.
She was also put inducted into the Minnesota high school basketball hall of fame in the inaugural class.
“That was neat,” she said.
Although she would have loved to see her beloved Vikings play in the Super Bowl this weekend in Minneapolis, Whalen has taken some solace in the play of 40-year-old Tom Brady.
“He gives you inspiration to keep doing it. This year after we won our fourth, I thought about it a little more,” Whalen said. “You want to go chase another one with your teammates. I’m not going to put any years on it, of course. I think the big thing is keeping your body in mind and being fresh for the season.”
Whalen broke her hand last season. She had surgery, and seven screws and a plate were put in her hand and arm.
“At this point, I’m probably year to year,” she said.
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