Sun coach Mike Thibault, an assistant on the 2008 gold medal Olympic women’s basketball team, was an interested observer as Geno Auriemma’s USA team rolled to a fifth straight gold in London.
“It went as many expected,” Thibault said Monday. “The hardest game was against Australia [in the semifinals]. I thought France [which lost to the US in the gold medal game and featured former Sun center Sandrine Gruda] acquitted itself well. But the United States was just deeper than everyone and it played with great energy.
“The rest of the teams in the world are catching up, but only in terms of perhaps their first six or seven players. After that, they can’t compete. Depth is good, we have great players and Geno did a good job integrating different players together. He had to make some adjustments on the fly after Sylvia Fowles got hurt [foot].
“Look at the game against Australia, when no one seemed to be guarding Liz Cambage [the 6-8 Aussie center] in the first half. Then Tina [Charles] and Asjha [Jones] took her out of the game in the second half. Those are the moments great teams prepare for. The USA showed itself well in that game.”
Thibault seemed happy that Jones – who along with Charles represented the Sun on the USA team – didn’t have to play a lot in the Olympics. She appeared in seven of the eight games and averaged only 10.3 points. She reported to the national team with a sore foot, suffered against Washington on July 11.
“But Tina played a lot of minutes (21.3),especially once Sylvia was hurt,” Thibault said.
Both players return to the Sun on Tuesday. Thibault said he will hold them out of practice to further aid their recovery from the Olympic grind. But they both will be ready Thursday when the WNBA season resumes at New York.
“One of the best things about this for Tina is that she has spent about a solid month now with all of the alpha personalities that the game has,” said Thibault. “She got to see how veterans approach the game, how seriously they take it. It’s great for young players to be around those players. And I got the sense that it was just a useful for Angel [McCoughtry]. It can only help a young player’s daily approach. It’s an air about how to conduct yourself.
“I’ve seen that improve with Tina, anyway. But this is just one more step in the right direction for her.”
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