Asjha Jones was added as the 12th and final member of the U.S. women’s basketball team for the London Olympics on Monday. I’m going to take a wild guess and say this didn’t go over that well in certain pockets of the women’s hoops fan base.
Jones, of the Connecticut Sun, became the sixth UConn grad added to roster, meaning half the team are former Huskies. With Geno Auriemma coaching, the fact that he didn’t actually pick the team – it was done by a selection committee – will get lost, ignored, or just flat-out not believed by those who are certain that it was his nefarious plot to stack the team with his former players.
The folks who are bugged by this aren’t likely to grumble much if at all about Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles and Maya Moore. But they think Swin Cash and Jones are UConn overkill, so to speak, and not demonstrably better than a lot of other worthy candidates.
There is also the fact that Cash and Jones aren’t that necessarily all that different as players. Cash, now with Chicago, averaged 13.3 points and 6.9 rebounds last season with Seattle, hitting 39.6 percent of her shots from the field (28.5 percent from 3-point range.) Jones also averaged 13.3 points, grabbed 6.4 rebounds and shot 44.4 percent. The biggest statistical difference between them is Cash shoots the 3-pointer more (117 of 400 for her WNBA career) than Jones does (38 of 138).
National team director Carol Callan is the head of the committee; the other members are five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, San Antonio Silver Stars coach/GM Dan Hughes, Indiana Fever GM/CEO Kelly Krauskopf, and WNBA executive Renee Brown.
It was obvious that Team USA wanted Baylor center Brittney Griner on the team, but when she pulled out of the running last week (that started the rumor mill again, unfortunately) the committee went with another post player.
Could that spot have gone to Phoenix’s Candice Dupree, who was on the World Championship team in 2010, or Minnesota’s Rebekkah Brunson, or a very young post, like this year’s top draft pick by Los Angeles, Nneka Ogwumike of Stanford?
Sure, it could have (although Ogwumike wasn’t on the list of 21 finalists USA Basketball released in February.) Frankly, I think the roster spot could go to Candace Parker’s almost-3-year-old daughter, Lailaa, and the Americans would still capture the gold.
I do simply accept that those who are annoyed about the “Huskies Half-Dozen” feel that way because, well … that’s just the way they are going to view this. And I’m not really fool enough to even try to talk them out of it, but …
I will say that at some point, folks really do need to trust that the committee/USA Basketball wants to do everything possible to win gold in London, and that that’s the bottom line for them. Not catering to Auriemma’s alumni party, as the critics will call it. Furthermore, Auriemma himself wants to do everything possible to win gold. He doesn’t want the United State’s Olympic winning streak – which dates back to the 1992 bronze-medal game in Barcelona – to end on his watch.
And while you could dub Team USA “Team UConn” for the Olympics, you could also name it the No. 1 Collection: seven of the players have been the top pick in the WNBA draft: Bird (’02), Taurasi (’04), Seimone Augustus (’06), Parker (’08), Angel McCoughtry (’09), Charles (’10) and Moore (’11).
Two were No. 2 draft picks: Cash (’02 behind Bird), and Sylvia Fowles (’08 behind Parker).
Indiana’s Tamika Catchings was No. 3 in 2001; she couldn’t play that season after being injured as a senior at Tennessee. Seattle took Lauren Jackson first that year, and there’s no quibbling whatsoever with that. But now-defunct Charlotte took Kelly Miller No. 2. Nothing against Miller _ who, like sister Coco, continues to be a durable player in the WNBA _ but … sheesh. Catchings was more than worth waiting one season for. That was obvious even back then.
Jones (’02) and the other member of the U.S. team, Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen (’04), were both No. 4 picks in the WNBA draft.
So here’s the final breakdown: the 12 Olympians represent five universities: UConn, Tennessee (two), LSU (two), Louisville and Minnesota. Auriemma either coached or coached against all of the Olympians when they were in college.