USA Basketball Expands Women’s Training and Pay to Keep WNBA Stars Stateside

The WNBA and Team USA Basketball have partnered up in an effort to grow the visibility of women’s basketball ahead of the 2020 Olympic games.

Over the weekend, while the best of the league’s talent was on display in Las Vegas for the WNBA All-Star game, US national team members and WNBA legends Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury helped unveil the new plan.

Under the new plan, Bird, Taurasi and six other players will all participate in five of the team’s training segments from November 2019 to April 2020, according to the official USA Basketball release. USA Basketball will be compensating the participating players financially, with a guaranteed amount of money, to keep them stateside during the WNBA offseason when a lot of players typically go overseas to supplement their income.

Bird, who said the idea was first raised when her and Taurasi were talking trash in a cafe, knows the details still have to be ironed out but is excited to leave her mark on Team USA – aside from the four gold medals and four world championships she’s helped the US to.

“It’s pretty cool to have an idea and finally see it come to fruition,” Bird told media. “When you get people at the table with a common goal and you want something done, you can figure out ways to get it done.”

Taurasi admitted this is likely her and Bird’s last Olympic games.

The two are currently the oldest active players in the WNBA. However, Bird has yet to play after undergoing knee surgery and Taurasi had a brief return after recovering from back surgery but has not returned to the court since July 12.

“This was something that, at this point in our careers, we know how important it is to have a good, last hurrah,” Taurasi said. “We brainstormed with a couple other players and put together a plan.”

Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx), Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics), Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces), Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings) and Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles Sparks) are the other six players that have committed to the program.

“This program gives us an opportunity to keep a core group of players together and to build chemistry and cohesion while some of our other players who are in the pool are overseas playing,” USA coach Dawn Staley said. “I’m super excited about it. I hope it develops into something that’s long-lasting, because it’s needed.”

Team USA has won six consecutive gold medals at the Olympic games, eight in total. The US has also placed in the top three of the last 11 world championships dating back to 1979, eight of those were championships.

The women enter as a clear favorite to take home another gold in 2020.

Author: Alexis Mansanarez

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