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Brittney Griner goes for third Olympic gold

Brittney Griner will wear the US team jersey for the third time.

Brittney Griner will wear the US team jersey for the third time.

Wade Payne/Associated Press

When the U.S. women’s basketball team looks to win its eighth consecutive Olympic gold medal this summer, Houston native Brittney Griner will mark a milestone of her own.

On Tuesday, USA Basketball announced Griner as one of 12 players to make the roster for the 2024 Paris Games, meaning Griner will play basketball abroad for the first time since she was arrested and imprisoned in Russia in February 2022.

After the federal government negotiated her release through a prisoner swap in December 2022, Griner, whose father worked in law enforcement, was adamant that she wanted to represent the U.S. again in the upcoming Olympics.

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KILL: If you’ve been paying attention, Caitlin Clark’s omission wasn’t a slight

Griner, 33, was part of the gold medal-winning teams at the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Although she missed the first ten games of this WNBA season with a broken toe, she returned to action for the Phoenix Mercury on June 7.

In Paris, she will be part of a veteran-heavy U.S. team led by 10-time WNBA All-Star Diana Taurasi, reigning WNBA Finals MVP A’ja Wilson and two-time WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart. The team is coached by Cheryl Reeve, three-time WNBA Coach of the Year for the Minnesota Lynx.

The roster construction appears to prioritize continuity, with nine players having previous Olympic experience.

Taurasi is heading to her sixth Olympic Games and breaks an international record for a basketball player. This will be the third Olympic Games for Griner and Stewart. Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier and Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd return for their second Games.

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Guard Chelsea Gray, a five-time WNBA All-Star and Tokyo Olympian, was part of the team even as she recovers from a left foot injury and has yet to play for the defending champion Las Vegas Aces this season.

A third of the Olympic roster consists of Aces players: Wilson, Gray, guard Kelsey Plum and guard Jackie Young. Plum and Young won a gold medal in 3-on-3 basketball at the Tokyo Games.

New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, Phoenix Mercury guard Kahleah Copper and Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas are heading to their first Olympics. These three were part of the 2022 gold medal-winning World Cup team and earlier this year played in the Olympic qualifying tournament team that won 3-0 in Belgium.

Indiana Fever rookie guard Caitlin Clark was left off the Olympic roster, an unsurprising decision considering she has never played for the senior national team (she did win two gold medals with the U19 team) and has not attended basketball camps in the past few years attended in the US. years. Clark was invited to training camp in April during her senior college season, but was unable to attend because she and Iowa were playing in the NCAA Final Four.

The team was selected by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Committee led by chair Jen Rizzotti (Connecticut Sun) and also included Dawn Staley (University of South Carolina), Bethany Donaphin (WNBA) and Dan Padover (Atlanta Dream), as well as athlete representatives Seimone Augustus and DeLisha Milton-Jones.

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For Griner, the return to international competition is another important step in her comeback. She returned to the WNBA last season and started every game she played in, averaging 17.5 points and 6.3 rebounds, an experience she described as both satisfying and overwhelming.

In recent months, Griner signed a new one-year contract with the Mercury, had her No. 42 jersey retired by Baylor and published a memoir about her captivity. She and her wife Cherelle are expecting their first child this summer.

The U.S.’s first Olympic match is July 29 against Japan, a repeat of the gold medal match from the Tokyo Games. The US will also play Belgium and Germany in the group stage before the quarterfinals begin on August 7.

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