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Leslie, Parker Named To Olympic Hoop Team
WASHINGTON — Lisa Leslie will have help from Los Angeles Sparks teammate Candace Parker when the U.S. women’s basketball team tries to win a fourth straight Olympic gold medal.
They were two of the nine players placed on the team Saturday. The announcement came before Los Angeles played Washington in a WNBA game.
“I feel a mixture of emotions,” Leslie said. “I feel young enough to play, but old enough to be a leader. When I put on the red, white and blue it’s all about the gold. I know what it takes to win gold.”
Leslie won gold medals at the last three Olympics. Former U.S. star Teresa Edwards won four Olympic titles, but a bronze in 1992 interrupted her run from 1984-2000.
Also on the team for Beijing are Olympic veterans Katie Smith, Tina Thompson, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird. This will be Smith’s third Olympics. Cappie Pondexter, Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles will make their Olympic debuts.
“These nine players are no-brainers,” U.S. Olympic coach Anne Donovan said. “It’s so exciting to have these nine players officially named to the team. It’s such a great mixture of Olympic gold medalists with some really tremendous young talent.”
The other three members will be announced by July 1 from the remaining pool of 20 players. Possible candidates include Kara Lawson, Swin Cash, Lindsey Harding and Lindsay Whalen.
“We’re hoping to add a tough defensive stopper on the perimeter who can also score for us, as well as at least another post player,” said Renee Brown, the USA Basketball vice president for senior women and chair of the selection committee.
One player the committee would love to have is Tamika Catchings, who has recovered slowly from a right Achilles’ tendon tear last September. Catchings was part of the Athens team in 2004.
“We’ll wait and see when Catchings gets back on the floor,” Brown said. “She’s very important to USA Basketball.”
Another possibility is three-time Olympic star Sheryl Swoopes, who is still recovering from a back injury.
“I’m sure if she’s 100 percent we wouldn’t leave her at home,” Leslie said of her former Olympic teammate.
The U.S. team lost in the 2006 world championship semifinals to Russia and had to qualify for the Olympics by winning the FIBA Americas tournament last September. The Americans begin Olympic pool play Aug. 9 against a qualifier that is still to be determined. They will then face host China on Aug. 11.
The Chinese beat a short-handed American team in the gold-medal game of the Olympic test event in April. That U.S. team was missing Bird, Taurasi, Thompson, Augustus and Pondexter — who were all playing abroad.
“I think China’s on a high after beating the USA team,” Pondexter said. “Also being the home team will help them.”