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USA basketball officials explain why they left Caitlin Clark off the Olympic team

A top USA Basketball official said Caitlin Clark’s popularity and impact on television audiences were not “the purview of the (selection) committee” after the organization on Tuesday announced its roster for the women’s competition at this summer’s Paris Olympics . The official announcement came three days after reports emerged that Clark would be left out of the 12-player roster, sparking debate over whether the rookie WNBA star should have made the team.

“Obviously, today I want to focus on the players who made the team, but there’s no avoiding the conversation about who didn’t, so I’m happy to address it,” said Jennifer Rizzotti, the women’s national team the American basketball club. committee chairman, told reporters at a news conference. “We obviously know the success Caitlin had in college, and she has had a great start to the WNBA season thus far. … But essentially the committee’s job was to choose the twelve based on our selection criteria, and as much as you wanted to have a conversation about how we should have considered TV viewership, or jersey sales, or popularity, that was not within the committee’s authority to conduct these discussions. The selection criteria were very clear.”

The roster features decorated players and is led by two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson and five-time gold medalist Diana Taurasi, who will break the record for most Olympic Games in basketball with her sixth selection. Also in attendance are Olympic veterans Breanna Stewart, Chelsea Gray, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd and Brittney Griner, who will play internationally for the first time since being held in a Russian prison for 10 months in 2022.

Also in attendance were Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum, who won gold in three-on-three basketball at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, plus first-time Olympians Sabrina Ionescu, Kahleah Copper and Alyssa Thomas, all of whom played on the U.S. team that won the Olympics. FIBA World Cup 2022.

Rizzotti mentioned the value of experience and continuity in building the roster for Coach Cheryl Reeve.

“There’s a lot of talk about what’s most important is putting Cheryl on the floor and giving her the opportunity to have the best roster available, not necessarily always the best 12 players,” Rizzotti said. “Attention has been paid to positions, depth, versatility and playing style that Cheryl has implemented over the past three years. Familiarity with international competition; familiarity with each other. But I think the challenge for us was the lack of preparation time we would have in July.

“I think we’re trying to balance all of this in our decision-making, blocking out the outside noise around things that aren’t part of our criteria, and really tightening up the process and having integrity in sticking to a roster that fits the criteria for the selection process. And I am very proud of our committee for making that final selection, because it was not easy.”

Clark’s star rose at the University of Iowa, where she led the Hawkeyes to consecutive national championship appearances and finished her career as the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader in Division I.

She was selected by the Indiana Fever with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s WNBA draft, and her arrival to the league coincided with substantial increases in television ratings, attendance and merchandise sales.

The 22-year-old has averaged 16.3 points, 6.0 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 13 games this season, although the Fever have won just three of those games.

Clark has represented the United States in youth competitions, and she was invited to USA Basketball’s final pre-Olympic training camp in April, although she was unable to attend because Iowa was in the Final Four.

The United States has won every gold medal in women’s basketball since the 1996 Summer Olympics, and the Americans will be favored to win an eighth straight gold medal in Paris. They will face Japan in their Olympic opener on July 29. The gold medal match is scheduled for August 11.

In assembling a veteran-laden roster, Rizzotti said the age of the players was not a factor. Still, she added that creating space for developing players on the roster when the talent pool is so deep can be a challenge.

“I think it’s an important part of the game, but I also think it’s documented that people reach their peak in their athletic careers in their mid-to-late 20s,” Rizzotti said. “So we’re talking about these college players who are phenomenal and will be future stars of our game, coming out of college and playing against women who are in their prime or who have years of experience.”

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