Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Future Is Now

How lucky are we?!! The USA Basketball Women's National Team convened its first training camp this week (since the last Olympics) right here in Washington, D.C., at -- appropriately enough -- American University. Today the team held an open practice, and those of us who passed up the glorious fall day outside to spend several hours indoors at Bender Arena made an excellent choice. To say that we saw a group of All Stars would be understatement. What we saw this afternoon were some of the best women's basketball players on the planet -- including representatives of the past, the present, and the future, of USA Basketball.

Absent, of course, were several key members of the team (like Beijing Gold Medalists Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings and Cappie Pondexter) who were busy playing for a WNBA Championship. And several members of the team (like Gold Medalist Kara Lawson and Mystics All Star Alana Beard) were present but sidelined from practicing due to injury. Even so, the level of talent on the court was amazing! And while it's always fun to watch the WNBA's annual All Star Game, this concentration of All Star talent -- practicing and competing for something very near and dear to the hearts of all the players present -- was far more exciting and interesting! Indeed, this was serious business, as the players are fighting first for roster spots on the USA team headed to Russia on Tuesday, as well as for spots on the World Championship team next year, and the ultimate prize, a place on the 2012 Olympic Team.

And in that respect, what we saw today was also a bit of a changing of the guard. Gone are Team USA veterans like Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson; but on the court this afternoon were several young players, including the oh-so-impressive Maya Moore, who is still in college, and young pros like the Mystics' Lindsey Harding and Crystal Langhorne, and WNBA rookies like Angel McCoughtry and Renee Montgomery. As we watched the young players go head-to-head against seasoned pros like Sue Bird, it was clear that the future for Team USA is very bright indeed.

Before things got going, the players warmed up and stretched . . .

. . . and did a little chatting along with the stretching . . . Seimone Augustus, Candace Parker, Crystal Langhorne, and Lindsay Whalen

The Mystics' own Lindsey Harding, waiting to take the floor.

"Whoa, Lindsay, these kids are good!"

The five injured players: Seimone Augustus, Alana Beard, Jayne Appel, Lindsay Whalen, and Kara Lawson.
Team USA's coaches were formally introduced: Head Coach Geno Auriemma and his Assistants, Jen Gillom and Doug Bruno

Geno took the team through two hours of drills as well as half-court and full-court intra-squad scrimmages.

Even when not playing, the players were still paying very close attention.

Geno was everywhere, teaching and coaching. Here, he wasn't particularly happy that Big Syl did not have a hand in Candace Parker's face, and so . . .

. . . he showed Big Syl exactly what he wanted , and Big Syl did exactly as Coach instructed!

Coach Auriemma delivers a little "hands on" instruction to Shameka Christon, as this season's WNBA Rookie of the Year Angel McCoughtry (and a likely future ROY, Maya Moore) look on.

There is so much talent on this team that the players were able to split into three teams -- red, white, and blue (what else?). Each was probably good enough to beat most WNBA teams!

The players were finally allowed to sit down about two hours in.

After practice, Lang made an unscheduled trip into the stands to say hello to the many Mystics and Terps fans she recognized in the house. Just another reason why we love this young lady!

This afternoon's official host was American University Women's Basketball Head Coach Matt Corkery, who could not have been more gracious. The BasketCases were very pleased to meet him.

Coach Corkery took a moment to introduce his team, the Eagles, to the crowd. He not only invited everyone to return for a game this season, but he gave a money back guarantee -- if you don't have fun, Coach Corkery will personally refund the price of your ticket. Now, that's an offer you can't refuse!

Also in the house today was Mystics GM Angela Taylor, who eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball. Here she is getting an early start recruiting a future free agent.

When the practice was over, Geno took questions from the crowd, as the players got ready for an autograph session.

The players were split among four table for the autographs. This one had the longest line. We think it's because Alana Beard and Virginia native Kara Lawson were there.

Well . . . okay, we confess, Candace Parker was at this table too

Lindsey Harding and Tina Charles signing away.

A couple of former Huskies, Renee Montgomery and Swin Cash, strictly following the Funnel Cake diet. (We don't recommend it!)

Lang, Big Syl, Candice Wiggins, and Seimone. (In the background is Women's Basketball Hall of Famer and Philadelphia Inquirer Sportswriter Mel Greenberg, who made the trek from Philly to take in the action.)

Next Stop Russia!! Tomorrow, USA Basketball will announce the roster for the team that will be heading over to play this week in Ekaterinburg. Good luck to all!

Photo Credits: DCBasketCases


At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms Langhorne is truly one of the classiest and approachable players in this league.

At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree, Lang is always pleasant and very approachable.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger fr mike said...

PEACE! Thanks for sharing and in photos. I like Angela being there and encouraging the future. "Also in the house today was Mystics GM Angela Taylor, who eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball. Here she is getting an early start recruiting a future free agent."

At 9:32 PM, Anonymous 104 said...

DC BCs - I'm amazed you didn't include a photo of Brenda giving Terp support.

And folks who couldn't make it to Bender Arena can play "spot the player" and figure out who was in the stands watching. No, I'm not referring to Val Ackerman.

At 11:51 PM, Anonymous BetsyinDC said...

It looked like Asst Coach Jennifer Gillom was having as much fun as anyone else out there.

I did spot Val Ackerman and Coach B, but couldn't recognize a lot of other familiar faces. They had to be players from somewhere...I was in the land of the giants with tall women everywhere.

At 5:39 AM, Anonymous Tabatha said...

What a cool event! I would have loved to take my kids to see that. The coach's offer of a refund if you don't have fun is a good one!

At 7:13 AM, Anonymous 104 said...

Here's your "spot the player" clue - she's in at least two of the pictures. One of the pictures also has Val, but they're not sitting together.

And I'm glad that the only injury of the day appeared to be Tina Charles' lip, but it sure took a long time to tend to.

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I give up, what players were there. I know someone gave a clue, but after reviewing the pictures again, could not see who they were referring to. Help!!

At 11:24 AM, Blogger BasketCases said...

Dear Anonymous,

Help is on the way...WNBA All Star and Olympic Gold Medalist, Katie Smith was in the house.

The BCs can indeed confirm her attendance. One of us even got her autograph!

BTW, "104" is correct about her being in the background of a couple of our photos. Katie was sitting in the section behind the bench about half-way up. She seemed to be enjoying watching as much as the rest of us were!


At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the help BC! Why isn't Katie playing? Did she turn down an invite or was she not invited? She has been with the USA team for the past 2 Olympics, right, so just curious.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger BasketCases said...

Dear Anonymous,

Katie hasn't played basketball since late August when she developed back problems. The diagnosis was bulging disks causing numbness in her leg, if we recall correctly.

As for her current status with USA Basketball, we honestly don't have any idea if she might be invited to join the team at a later date, once she's sufficiently recovered.


At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure Katie Smith was there to support her girlfriend, Lindsey Harding...

At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, thanks again BC!

At 2:17 PM, Blogger xwomynjoc said...

I just saw that Lindsey and Lang are on the USA team going to Russia leaving tonight. Way to go, ladies.
Thanks BasketCases for the great pictorial and blog about yesterday's fantastic showcase at Bender. Geno really has a quick and interesting sense of humor. I enjoyed listening to what he had to say.

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Katie has retired from USA Basketball after starting way back in 1993 and playing in three Olympics and three World Championships. She still rocks the rock, but will no longer wear U-S-A ... of course Teresa Edwards 'retired' before '96 and again pre-2000. I've learned to never say never :-)

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We also spotted San Antonio coach, Dan Hughes, sitting at the far end bleachers by himself.

At 6:31 PM, Blogger BasketCases said...

We saw ALL those folks too; next time, we'll just have to put up a "who's who" list of every "notable" in attendance, if not a photo! LOL!

-- BC

At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice event! I was sitting right behind Coach B's hubby and saw a pic of the twins on his cell phone.


At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's being reported that Whitney Bays has committed to MD!! Woohoo! Welcome Whitney!

At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Jeff said...

What a great event. Wish I was in town and available to go. We received the notes from Paul VI Coach Scott Allen.


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