Team USA or team UCONN?

LONDON – Six members of the USA Women’s basketball teamand the team’s coach all have a connection to the University of Connecticut, and this team bonding is a key factor in a team’s success, they said.

Team takes a break in practice to listen to Coach Auriemma’s strategy. (Photo by Colin Brown)

Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, and Diana Taurasi all won a national championship together in 2002 with the Huskies and Maya Moore and Tina Charles added rings of their own in 2009 and 2010.  These three championships are all a part of head coach Geno Auriemma’s seven total national titles.

“I think it helps that six of us went to UCONN and we’re familiar and comfortable,” Bird said.

Running a lot of the same sets that they did at school helps the women learn the playbook.

“UCONN kind of has its own philosophy about a lot of plays and a lot of things are similar from when I was in school.  You don’t really remember the plays so much but you remember the concepts,” said Asjha Jones, one of Bird’s teammates.

Bird says that the women who played at UCONN have a close bond.

“Anybody will tell you, some of the friendships you form and the people you meet and the bonds you make in college kind of last a lifetime and for me,” she said. “I’ve played with three of the other women on this team and it’s definitely there.”

When the former Huskies are happy to play with one another once again, the team as a whole has a tight bond.

“It’s like old times reminiscing, but we’re also really close to the other players too,” said Jones.

 

Scripps finds out Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles’ likes and dislikes

Team USA women’s basketball is known for its unrelenting ability to be No. 1 in the world for four Olympics in a row now.

The players are known for their dominating talent on the court and also for their ability to play as a team as if they had been one for years. What most people don’t know, however, is the more personal side of the players, their likes and dislikes.

Three time Olympic gold medalist Diana Taurasi and 2008 Beijing gold medalist Sylvia Fowles discuss their favorite meals, music, movies and more after their practice at the University of East London.

The London Lowdown: Episode III

Tim Dix and Scott Hutchinson are back for another installment of the London Lowdown podcast. Episode three features interviews with Olivia Arbogast and Kayla Hanley, who covered a U.S. men’s basketball team practice and U.S. women’s team practice, respectively. Tim and Scott discuss the highlight of the games so far as well as Tim’s experience at men’s table tennis.

The London Lowdown 3

“The beauty of us women”

When I woke up yesterday morning, I didn’t realize the opportunity that awaited me. I did not comprehend who I would be meeting that day and where I was headed. When I was assigned and granted access to cover the USA Women’s basketball practice for Aug. 4, I was extremely excited, but it still had not hit me yet.

We trucked from Guilford all the way to East London University; it took about an hour and 20 minutes. London is so huge! But the train system is actually a very efficient way to travel. Once we walked into the media press waiting room, we were surrounded by journalists — some from NBC London and even some from New York City. It was a little unreal that I was about be a junior in college and there I was, preparing to come face-to-face with an Olympian. Women that I have idolized since I was a young basketball player.

As Kayla, Jillian and I made our way to the gymnasium, I began to feel nervousness take over my body. We waited in the waiting area for the women to finish practicing. I was blown away when we entered the gym. It was all themed USA, and it was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. I saw all the journalists were getting out their equipment and begin to approach the ladies. I instantly felt like I was wasting time being star struck by all the tall, athletic women. When I saw Candace Parker and Maya Moore, I was blown away. I have watched these women throughout their careers and use to pray every night that I’d wake up and be 6’6″ and get a call from a Tennessee or UConn, begging me to join the team. Obviously, that never happened, but I was as close to that dream as I have ever been when I saw them standing there.

I finally approached a player, Sylvia Fowles, a 6’6″ center for the U.S. team. She was sitting down when I approached her so it wasn’t as intimidating. Before I could even spurt out my first name she says, “Hey girl, pop a squat!” She pulled a chair closer to hair and motions for me to sit. Her warm voice and welcoming smile really made all my nervousness melt away. I began the interview with laughs and a brief introduction of myself. Her story was amazing. She didn’t even want to be a basketball superstar; she wanted to be like the women in her family and run track. To read more about our interview and her story go check out my story at www.scrippslondon2012.com! She talked about “the beauty of a woman” and how it pays to be humble and respectful as a basketball player. They are dominating the olympic games, but they will not be celebrating until they have the title and their 5th gold. She was exceptional, as a player and especially as a human being. Speaking with her was such a pleasure, I appreciate how wonderful she was. I felt like I knew her for years after our interview.

After Sylvia helped me shake off my nerves, I was ready to get another interview. I really thought about trying to approach Geno, but as soon as that thought crossed my mind, there she came. Diana Taurasi. I had only seen her on TV, and I had always wondered how we would match up in real life. She was obviously taller, standing at 6 foot and at least 30 pounds heavier than I was, but her body consisted of only lean muscle. She was built just like a basketball player should be. I knew it was now or never. Kayla sort of gave me a shove and said, “What are you doing?! Get over there!” So I did. I approached my childhood hero and began to introduce myself. I probably sounded so stupid but I began to remember the mellow, happy feelings I got when I talked to Sylvia. I tried to pretend it was the same thing. Diana didn’t make me feel as at home, but she was very sweet and willing to speak with me. She shook my hand with a smile and we began. I asked her numerous things and told her I was a huge fan and that I had been forever. I remember watching her dominate the game when she was at UConn. She is making her third appearance at the Olympics, and you could tell she was prepared mentally and physically, yet again. She gave me some great quotes, my favorites were what she said about her opponents. She said basketball was all about respect, win or lose. I couldn’t have agreed more. Basketball is about so much more than just winning or losing, I have learned this throughout my own time spent playing the game. I admired how real Diana was. She said it is great to have Geno as her coach, since he was previously at UConn as well. Finally, I wrapped up the interview and thanked her profusely. Then as soon as I moved out of the way another herd of journalists took my place and she began the process again.

I kept telling everyone that I was never washing my hand again … excessive I know.

Then I saw Debbie Antonelli there! I introduced myself as the fellow Bobcat who had been hounding her on the phone to meet up in London. She remembered me and gave me a big hug. I was really excited when she introduced me to some of her colleagues and proceeded to ask when we could meet this week. I told her anytime, any place, I will be there! She was very sweet. I really want to just pick her brain and learn about her journey to where she is in her career now. There is so much you could learn from a women like Debbie. The whole USA basketball team ran up to her and hugged her. How many journalists can say that? I will be looking forward to meeting with her this week!

This was probably the highlight of my trip so far. Some journalists work their entire career to be able to go to the olympics and interview athletes, I already have. It was an experience I would not have traded for the world. Yesterday “my balls” officially dropped. I know what I want to do for the rest of my life. This trip has really made me realize my potential as a journalist. It’s all I want to do.