Breanna Stewart Set to Lead Team USA’s Charged Basketball Squad at FIBA ​​World Cup | Basketball

SEATTLE – Perhaps the most dynamic team in sport will put their record streak on the line when the FIBA ​​World Cup kicks off this week in Sydney, Australia.

A new United States women’s basketball team led by Storm stars Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd and WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson shines a light on a heavily favored and star-studded team looking to expand their dominance against a group of international competitors who believe Americans are vulnerable for the first time in decades.

Since 1996, USA Basketball has compiled a ridiculous 101-1 Olympic and World Cup record, including 12 gold medals dating back to 1996. Since a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup, the United States has won 52 matches in both tournaments. .

However, USA Basketball is without mainstays Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles, who have retired, while veterans Diana Taurasi and Tina Charles have apparently aged out of international competition.

Napheesa Collier, who gave birth earlier this year, is taking a break from international basketball, as is Skylar Diggins-Smith, who is out for personal reasons. And Brittney Griner remains detained in Russia.

“There’s room to come in,” said first-year coach Cheryl Reeve, who replaces Dawn Staley. “It is possible to fill a void. It can be a skill set or leadership. … We’re lucky here in the United States in that we’re able to have this next wave and the next generation of talent. Now you can’t inject the experience part. It’s just something that we have to go through and build that up.

“But I’m thrilled for players like Breanna Stewart. Now that you take away what she had as a long player, she is no longer a young player. She is the most experienced in this competition. Peel off Sue and (Diana), who she was able to lean on, and now it’s Stewie. Well, it’s a tremendous growth opportunity. I’m really looking forward to seeing how she can impact our team in this way.

In addition to Stewart and Loyd, the 12-man USA squad includes former Washington Huskies star Kelsey Plum, Sabrina Ionescu, Ariel Atkins, Chelsea Gray, Wilson, Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Shakira Austin, Betnijah Laney and Brionna Jones .

Only five members (Stewart, Loyd, Wilson, Atkins and Gray) of the U.S. team that won gold at the Tokyo Olympics last year are competing at the World Cup, putting more pressure on Stewart, 28, who is the longest-serving member with four gold medals.

“I have a lot of experience in American basketball since I started at the age of 14,” said Stewart, who won the title of Olympic tournament MVP last year and World Cup MVP. FIBA in 2018. “It’s my job to lead by example, but also use my experience to help my teammates. I feel like if I don’t, it’s a bit selfish of my hand because I think there are so many ways to help without having the ball in your hands.

This will also be Stewart’s first game without Bird.

“It’s really striking,” Stewart said. “Because we’ve had training camps throughout this year where they haven’t been there, it’s weird. Every time you show up, you’re a bit used to their presence.

“But it’s a great opportunity for a lot of these new, younger players to reach national team level and make their own mark. … What Sue, D and Syl have done with USA Basketball has been amazing and a legacy in its own right, and now it’s time for other players to create their own legacy.

The United States will start the tournament on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. PT against Belgium before facing Puerto Rico, China, Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Pool Group A which ends on September 26.

Reeve was unsure if Wilson, Gray, Plum, Thomas and Jones would be available for the first two games given that they played in the WNBA Finals, which ended on Sunday.

Traditionally, the United States have overwhelmed their opponents with a deep and talented roster. Despite the possibility of having only seven players for the tournament opener, Reeve hopes to maintain a fast pace that features Stewart.

“Whatever numbers we have, that’s what we’re going to use,” Stewart said. “We’re going to make sure our patterns are right and our scouting report is right and not looking at the cons of (our limited roster) but the pros of this one and really making sure we’re setting the tone with this tournament. .

“Starting with Belgium is not an easy task and it gives us a lot of opportunities to grow, especially for players who don’t have a lot of experience here. But we know we have reinforcements coming, and we just have to hold them off until then.

Stewart and Loyd are two of five Storm players taking part in the World Cup, including Gabby Williams (France) and Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot (Australia).

Storm coach Noelle Quinn is an assistant for Canada, while former Storm star Lauren Jackson has come out of retirement to play for Australia.

“We had a little get-together with all the teams last night, so being able to see everyone from Storm, whether it was Noey, Lauren, Steph, Ezi or Gabby, was amazing,” Stewart said. “It will obviously be competitive, but really fun to face them. It’s amazing that Lauren Jackson is back after everything she’s been through. And especially playing in Sydney, Australia. Hope everyone shows up for her and will show up to support her.

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