Caitlin Clark's WNBA Debut: A Tryout for Olympic Glory

Caitlin Clark's WNBA Debut: A Tryout for Olympic Glory
Caitlin Clark's WNBA Debut: A Tryout for Olympic Glory

Caitlin Clark's early play in the WNBA will serve as her tryout for a spot on the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team.

The women's roster for the Paris Games will not be determined before June 1. Unable to attend the U.S. training camp this month, Clark will have the start of her WNBA career to show the U.S. women's basketball selection committee whether she deserves a spot on the team.

Selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti said she'll be watching.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," Rizzotti told The Associated Press. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Clark was invited to attend the U.S. training camp in Cleveland, but it was held during the Final Four when she was still competing for a national championship with Iowa. Attending the camp wasn't mandatory to make the team, but it certainly would have helped the NCAA Division I all-time scoring leader show the selection committee she could hold her own against some of the best players in the world. The camp in Cleveland was the last one the U.S. had before announcing its roster.

The team will get together in Phoenix for a few days in July right before the Olympics, including playing an exhibition All-Star game against WNBA players.

The American women, who are trying for an eighth consecutive Olympic gold medal, have a talented group of guards in the pool. The list includes five-time Olympian Diana Taurasi as well as Chelsea Gray, Ariel Atkins and Jewell Loyd, who all played on the Tokyo Games team in 2021. Kelsey Plum, who owns an Olympic gold medal in 3x3, and Sabrina Ionescu are also in the pool.

"Thinking about Diana and Chelsea Gray and when their careers are done, you want to make sure you're in a position with these upcoming guards with Sabrina, Kelsey and Caitlin that you feel good that our future is set," Rizzotti said during 3x3 training camp last weekend.

Rizzotti will get a first-hand look at Clark when the No. 1 pick in the draft opens her WNBA career at the Connecticut Sun on May 14. Rizzotti is the president of the Sun.

If Clark makes the team, she wouldn't be the first WNBA rookie to be on an Olympic squad. Breanna Stewart was the last one to do it, making the team in 2016. The difference was that Stewart had been part of the national team since she was a sophomore in college, playing on the 2014 World Cup squad.

While Clark has no senior national team experience, she has played on junior USA teams. She won gold medals at the 2019 and 2021 FIBA U19 World Cups and the 2017 FIBA U16 Americas Championship.

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