Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve predicted it would take more than talent to make the U.S. women’s basketball roster for the Rio Olympics. “They want not just the 12 best players,” Reeve said. “They want the 12 best to represent the country in a way that’s full of teamwork, chemistry, giving of yourself. It’s not a ‘me’ situation.”
Reeve had seen four of her Lynx players — Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles — demonstrate those qualities every day. That created a ‘we’ situation for the Lynx on Wednesday, as all four were named to the Olympic team. Whalen, Moore and Fowles were among eight team members present for the announcement of the 12-player roster, revealed live on NBC’s “Today” show in New York City.
Augustus, still playing for her pro team in Russia, and Fowles made the Olympic team for the third time. Whalen and Moore will play in their second Summer Games for a team that returns nine members of the 2012 group that won gold in London.
Olympic coach Geno Auriemma said it was “the first time in a long time” that many more than the 12 chosen players could have made the roster. Carol Callan, chairwoman of the USA Basketball committee that picked the team, said it considered versatility, leadership, international experience and “demonstrated teamwork” as it assessed the 25 players in the selection pool.
Reeve, who will be an assistant on Auriemma’s staff in Rio, said those traits constitute “everyday life” for the Lynx. They have helped the Lynx win three WNBA titles, and Auriemma said they will be just as important as the U.S. pursues a sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
“The fact that you’ve got four players from the Minnesota Lynx on the team is not a coincidence,” said Auriemma, whose tenure as U.S. coach includes a 23-0 record, two world championships and Olympic gold in 2012. “You’re talking about four of the very best players in the world, and four incredibly unselfish individuals. The fact that those four spend time together, practice together, know each other, that goes a long way.
“[The Olympians] are players that are used to winning at every level and have the ability to play with other great players. A huge part of playing on the Olympic team is knowing how to handle yourself when there’s 12 of the best players in the world on the same team. I think it’s a huge advantage we have going forward.”
Eleven play in the WNBA. Three-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird of Seattle, Tamika Catchings of Indiana and Diana Taurasi of Phoenix were named tri-captains for the Rio team. Brittney Griner of Phoenix, Elena Delle Donne of Chicago and Breanna Stewart of the University of Connecticut made their first Olympic team, while Tina Charles of New York and Angel McCoughtry of Atlanta made their second.
Auriemma said the Olympic team will hold a training camp in late July and play a couple of exhibition games before the Olympic tournament begins Aug. 6. The WNBA will take a break from July 23-Aug. 24.
Wednesday, Reeve acknowledged fans’ concern that sending four key players to Rio could impact the Lynx’s chances of repeating as WNBA champions. She said the team learned from its experience in 2012, when it lost to Indiana in the WNBA Finals after Augustus, Whalen and Moore played in London. If the Lynx remain healthy, Reeve added, they “should be there in the end” to make a title run.
The U.S. is in Group B for the preliminary round at the Olympics, along with Canada, Senegal, Serbia and two teams to be determined. Serbia is the EuroBasket champion.