A’ja Wilsontwo-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewartthe Tokyo Olympics MVP, is headlining a new U.S. women’s basketball team for the FIBA World Cup which kicks off in Sydney on Thursday (Wednesday night in the U.S.).
Wilson and Stewart, both tall, are joined in the World Cup squad by fellow Olympic gold medalists – the guards Chelsea Gray, Jewel Loyd, Ariel Atkins and Plum Kelseythe WNBA MVP runner-up voting for Wilson.
The 2020 WNBA No. 1 Overall Draft Pick Sabrina Ionescu and 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper are ready to make their world championship debut.
It’s the start of a new era for USA Basketball after the retirement of the point guard Sue Birdwho participated in all the Olympic and World Games from 2002 to the Tokyo Games.
Diana Taurasi will miss a world championship for the first time since making his Olympic debut with Bird in 2004. The 40-year-old guard suffered a quad injury that ended the WNBA season earlier this summer.
The United States is also without major pillars: Sylvia Fowlesfour-time Olympic champion who retired this summer; Tina Charles, a three-time Olympic champion who said last month she was “out of her time” with the national team; and Britney Grinera two-time Olympic champion who has been detained in Russia since February 17 with US officials in hopes of bringing her home in a prisoner swap.
Add it all up and it’s the first time since the 1994 Worlds – just before the start of the current dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – that a US roster for the Olympics or World Cup has not included person over 30 years old. Prior to the 1994 World Cup, every U.S. Olympic player was 29 or younger.
Still, the United States will be favored to extend their dominance between Olympic and world competition – 52 straight wins and seven consecutive gold medals since their 2006 world semi-final loss to Russia.
The United States beat all of their seven opponents in Tokyo by double digits except Nigeria, which they beat by nine. The Nigerian FA withdrew its squad from the World Cup over governance issues. Australia may be the biggest threat as hosts, but they’re without a superstar Liz Cambagewhich can be finished with the national team.
USA Women’s Basketball Team Roster for the FIBA Basketball World Cup
Tokyo Olympian Ariel Atkins
Chelsea Gray — Tokyo Olympian
Jewell Loyd — Tokyo Olympian
Kelsey Plum — Tokyo Olympian (3×3)
Breanna Stewart — Tokyo Olympian
A’ja Wilson – Tokyo Olympian
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A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart lead USA women’s basketball team for FIBA World Cup originally appeared on NBCSports.com