Rio de Janeiro – Minnesota Lynx star Seimone Augustus was wearing a hat with “USA” in large, block letters. She was celebrating the U.S. women’s basketball team’s 105-62 victory China, and its Olympic record 40 assists.
She was crying. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m trying to control my emotions.”
Augustus found herself preoccupied and proud. After playing her 100th game for USA Basketball, Augustus revealed that the flooding in her hometown of Baton Rouge, La., had forced her parents to evacuate and had endangered the horses she keeps on her land.
“My parents actually had to be boated out yesterday,” she said. “They’re safe. Everybody’s safe.
“I talked to them. I wouldn’t have played today if I hadn’t talked to them. They’re doing fine, once they got out of the neighborhood we’re in and down to the city area.”
Augustus alternated between fighting back tears and taking visible pride in her 100th game. She scored 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting and had five assists as the U.S. made constant lead and cross-court passes, and now heads into the quarterfinals starting on Tuesday.
In 2011, Augustus was named the MVP of the WNBA Finals. She said not that nor any of her pro accolades compares with becoming a fixture on the national team.
Her first game with the U.S. was in Croatia during the 21-and-under world championships. “I had been cut previously before,” she said. “I made that team and was the MVP and won the women’s player of the year award. Then we won my first gold medal in 2008.
“That means the most, because of the struggles that I had to go through to get on this team. This team is different than other teams. Before I made this team I made every other team. I was probably the first pick. Everybody was calling my parents to get me on their team. And this team was like, ‘You’re not good enough.’ And I’m trying to figure this out, as a player who has always been given things, when someone says you can’t have it, it’s like, ‘OK, now I have to figure out what I need to do to become a better player.’
“Or you just give up. And it’s not in my character to give up. So I had to figure out what it was USA Basketball needed me to do to be on these teams, and here I am, 100 games later.”
Augustus is the Lynx’s most natural scorer, and when she is hitting her shot that team is nearly impossible to guard. With Team USA, she is a valuable bench scorer willing to move the ball to her team’s wealth of scorers.
“It was like a stab to the heart,” Augustus said about the one time in her life she didn’t make a team. “I understood. I was probably one of the youngest, probably the youngest, player there. But you have an ego and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m from Louisiana, I’m the big fish in the small pond.’ I’m thinking it’s the same way outside Louisiana. I got a wake-up call, and I’m glad I got that call because it made me a better player in the long run.”