By Josh Hyber/Photo by Jenny Dilworth
When Dawn Staley walks onto the court this winter at her first training camp as head coach of the U.S. women’s national team, she’ll be greeted by 30 of the best basketball players in the world.
Sue Bird. Diana Taurasi. Elena Delle Donne. Maya Moore.
But if the South Carolina coach ever feels distant at the Sept. 30-Oct. 2 camp in Santa Barbara, Calif., she’ll be able to turn to one familiar face: Gamecocks’ senior forward A’ja Wilson, who was one of five college players invited to the camp.
“It’s really exciting to have A’ja be a part of our national team training,” Staley said in a release. “She will learn valuable lessons competing with and against the very best players in the country.”
Staley, who was named the National Team head coach in March, will oversee the camp aimed will identify and prepare players — including 12 Olympic and/or FIBA World Cup gold medalists — for future National Team events, including the 2018 USA World Cup.
“I’m honored and blessed to be picked to compete with some of the best in women’s basketball,” Wilson said. “I’m super excited to learn new things and experience things at a high level.”
For Staley, the coach is excited.
“Obviously, it’s been a few months, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about the things we want to run, and I’m looking forward to putting it in motion,” the coach said. “I’m pleased that we got this amount of top quality players committed to this training camp.”
Staley is making her debut as the national team head coach after serving two terms as an assistant (2006-08 and 2014-16). This appointment marks her fourth as a head coach in the USA Basketball system. She helped the team to gold medals at the 2007 Pan Am Games, 2014 FIBA U18 America Championship and the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship.
As an assistant coach, she was part of gold medal teams at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2014 FIBA World Championship and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
As a player, Staley helped USA Basketball to 10 gold medals, including three Olympic golds and seven international invitational titles from 1989-2004.
In addition to Wilson, the other current college All-Americans who will take part in the camp are Napheesa Collier (UConn), Asia Durr (Louisville), Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State) and Katie Lou Samuelson (UConn).
Combined, the participants own 95 gold medals, two silver medals and five bronze medals in official junior and senior level competitions. The list is underscored by a total of 23 Olympic and 17 FIBA World Cup gold medals.
WNBA Players Invited
Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx)
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
Layshia Clarendon (Atlanta Dream)
Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics)
Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings)
Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky)
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles Sparks)
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream)
Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks)
Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm)
Kayla McBride (San Antonio Stars)
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
Kelsey Plum (San Antonio Stars)
Odyssey Sims (Los Angeles Sparks)
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
Kiah Stokes (New York Liberty)
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun)
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
Sydney Wiese (Los Angeles Sparks)
Courtney Williams (Connecticut Sun)