By this time next year, Geno Auriemma and the USA Basketball women’s national team will be in Turkey playing for the FIBA World Championship, a prelude to traveling to Rio De Janeiro in 2016 to try and win a sixth straight Olympic gold medal.
And last week, the process began with a three-day training camp in Las Vegas that brought together many past Olympians and a crew of college players on their way up.
There was enough new blood to make the veterans take notice. UConn sent three players, Stef Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart. Bria Hartley was invited but was kept home to nurse her cranky left ankle.
“When you look at all the new players here, it’s kind of nice to be able to stay consistent as far as what we’ve done the last four years,” said Tamika Catchings, a three-time Olympian. “Now we’re moving into the next four years and not much is going to change. Some players come and go, but being able to build off of the success that we’ve already had is really good.”
But much is going to change, which made the camp so much more interesting. It’s almost certain that a number of new players will join the core group in 2016 taking the place of departed stars like Asjha Jones and Swin Cash.
And this was the first time many of them assembled for Auriemma. And for most of the weekend, Auriemma basically focused on reinforcement and introduction.
It’s not hard to envision an Olympic team in 2016 that will feature new stars like Elena Delle Donne, Mosqueda-Lewis, Brittney Griner and Stewart. But one of the players who really stood out was Notre Dame senior guard Kayla McBride.
For Delle Donne, who passed on her chance to play for Auriemma at UConn, and McBride, who has battled him so hard for three years at Notre Dame, the experience likelt was eye-opening.
“It’s definitely interesting [to be coached by Auriemma] because you see how similar his style is. He coaches a great team in UConn and you can see why they’re so good,” McBride said last week.
Sites due Wednesday
The NCAA will announce what four sites have been awarded Division I women’s basketball regional sites Wednesday at 2 p.m. Keep in mind that UConn almost certainly will host first- and second-round games, most likely at Gampel, next March since the NCAA will now ask teams ranked 1-16 in the bracket to host sub-regionals.
However, Bridgeport, where last season’s regional was played, is not in contention this season because it will host NCAA Hockey at the Webster Bank Arena. So UConn fans may be looking at a road trip for possible Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games this season.
In case you were wondering, tickets for UConn’s game at Bridgeport on Jan. 11 against Tonya Cardoza’s Temple team go on sale Oct. 18.
Here are the ticket prices: Floor seats ($149), on the floor behind the baskets ($79), center of the court elevated ($29), in the corners elevated ($19) and nosebleed ($15).