Catchings Named to USA Basketball Team

USA Basketball News Release | May 23, 2006
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Continuing on its past success of building gold medal winning teams around a core group of internationally experienced players, USA Basketball, which has claimed gold at the last two FIBA World Championships and past three Olympic Games, announced today that three-time Olympic gold medalists Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) and Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), two-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith (Detroit Shock), 2000 Olympic gold medalist DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics), and 2004 Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) have been selected as the first eight members of the 2006 USA Women’s World Championship Team. The selections were made by the USA Basketball Women’s Senior National Team Committee and approved by the USA Basketball Executive Committee.

“USA Basketball’s senior women’s program has a proud history of success in international competition, including an uninterrupted string of gold medals in the past three Olympics and past two World Championships,” said USA Basketball President Val Ackerman. “The 2006 World Championship player roster once again represents an impressive blend of youth and veteran leadership, and with coach Donovan at the helm, we are in an outstanding position to continue our unparalled run and solidify the domination of American women in the sport of basketball,”

“These eight players have contributed to the success of the USA Basketball women’s program over the past two decades,” said Committee chair and WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations Renee’ Brown. “You not only have three- and two-time Olympians, but you have some talented young players who are hungry to compete alongside our veterans and help continue to build upon USA Basketball’s past successes. Not only have all of them have competed together in international competitions, but the Committee also knows that they all have a respect for each other’s games and they are willing to collectively come together to compete and win for the USA.”

“This is a tremendous group of core players, with extensive experience in bringing home the gold,” said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. “With this group, I know we are assured of going to battle in the World Championship with our best and most proven veterans. These players understand the drive, preparation and commitment that we need to stay on top. I am confident that these experienced Olympians will set the pace for yet another gold.”

Fever Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf serves on the USA Basketball Women's Senior Natioanl Team Committee. Donovan coached the Indiana Fever during its inaugural season in 2000.

The Donovan-led U.S. squad will look to defend its World Championship title at the 15th FIBA World Championship, scheduled to be played September 12-23 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Behind the play of 2002 FIBA World Championship MVP Leslie, as well as Bird, Catchings, Milton-Jones, Smith and Swoopes, the United States captured the ‘02 gold medal, successfully defending it’s 1998 World Championship crown.

The U.S. owns a record seven gold medals, one silver and one bronze at the World Championship, while compiling an 80-20 (.800 winning percentage) record, including a 19-0 winning streak that dates back to the 1994 bronze medal game.

The Committee, chaired by WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations Reneé Brown, will use part of the WNBA season to evaluate players for the final four roster positions, which will be announced later this summer.

Donovan will be assisted on the sidelines by Connecticut Sun head coach Mike Thibault and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Duke University (N.C.) and Dawn Staley of Temple University (Pa.).

The eight core members possess a wealth of international experience having played in a combined 777 international games. Not only do they own 13 Olympic gold medals between them, they also have nine World Championship golds and a pair of World Championship bronze medals as Leslie and Smith were members of the 1998 USA World Championship Team; the pair teamed with Bird, Catchings, Milton-Jones and Swoopes in aiding the U.S. to gold in 2002; while Leslie and Swoopes were on the 1994 USA team that finished with the bronze medal. Further, in major international competitions, they boast a combined 35 golds, four silvers and three bronze medals. Underscoring their successful histories with the red, white and blue, USA teams with any of these eight players as a member have rolled to a striking 749-41 overall record for a 94.8 winning percentage.

Not only are the core members familiar with one another on the court, they have all been coached by Donovan in the past. Donovan, an assistant coach for the 1998 and 2002 World Championship teams that featured Leslie, Milton-Jones and Smith in ‘98 and all but Thompson and Taurasi in ‘02, was also an assistant on the sidelines in Athens where all eight core members helped lead the U.S. to gold. Additionally, Bird has played for Donovan in Seattle since the 2003 WNBA season.

Most recently, Smith featured on all three rosters during the 2006 USA Basketball Women’s National Team’s spring training and exhibition tour, which was headed by Donovan, assisted by Thibault in all three segments and Staley in Australia. Bird, Milton-Jones and Taurasi joined Smith on the first tour, which saw the U.S. claim a 3-0 record in Europe Mar. 2-9; the second tour of Europe, Mar. 17-27, saw Swoopes and Smith give veteran leadership as the United States again went 3-0; while on the third training segment the USA posted a 4-1 record and won the April 7-12 Australia-hosted Opals World Challenge behind the play of Smith and Thompson.

FIBA World Championship
The World Championship has been contested essentially every four years since 1953. The United States captured the first two gold medals before the beginning of the Soviet domination of women’s basketball at the 1959 World Championship. The former USSR put together a string of five straight golds (1959, 1964, 1967, 1971, 1975), before the United States reclaimed gold in 1979. The Soviet Union in 1983 earned its final World Championship crown as the USA went on to capture four of the next five World Championships (1986, 1990, 1998, 2002). The only other nation to break into the gold medal column at this event is Brazil, which defeated the USA in the 1994 semifinals and went on to take the top spot that year.

FIBA conducted on Jan. 31 the official draw to determine the four preliminary round groupings for the 2006 FIBA World Championship, and the United States was placed in Group C along with China, Nigeria and Russia. Preliminary round games are scheduled for Sept. 12‑14, and the top three teams from each of the four preliminary round groups will advance to the second round for the right to advance to the medal round quarterfinals. Placed in Group A were Argentina, host Brazil, South Korea and Spain; Group B includes Australia, Canada, Lithuania and Senegal; while Group D consists of Cuba, Czech Republic, France and Chinese Taipei.

The 15th FIBA World Championship format will feature a round‑robin competition in preliminary round play. The top three teams from each preliminary group advance to form two second round groups consisting of six teams each. Each team’s results against advancing teams from its preliminary group carries over to the second round standings, and each team will play the other three teams in the second round group whom they have not faced previously. The top four teams from those two groups will advance to the medal round quarterfinals. The gold and bronze medal games will be played Sept. 23.

2006 will mark Brazil’s fourth time hosting the FIBA World Championship: Rio de Janeiro played host in 1957, and Sao Paulo was the site for the 1971 and 1983 Worlds. In all, the United States had mixed success when playing a World Championship in Brazil. The 1957 squad took home the gold with an 8-1 slate, in 1971 the U.S. finished in eighth place with a 6-2 record and in 1983 the USA squad again went 6-2, but returned with the silver medal.

Tamika Catchings
A 2004 Olympic and 2002 World Championship gold medalist, Catchings is the only U.S. athlete to own golds from both the junior- and senior-level Worlds after helping the United States capture gold at the 1997 Junior FIBA World Championship. Additionally, Catchings helped the USA team earn a gold medal at the 1998 R. William Jones Cup and a silver at the 1996 COPABA Junior World Championship Qualifying Tournament. During her stint in a USA Basketball uniform Catchings has aided squads not only to four golds and a silver medal, but she has also piled up a 55-3 record with her last USA Basketball loss coming against Australia in the second game of the 1997 FIBA Junior World Championship.

This is the second USA Basketball Senior National Team to list Catchings as a member of the core group. She was a hopeful during spring training for the ‘02 Worlds and her stellar play led to a nod as a member of the 2004 USA Senior National Team core group. A proven international winner, Catchings led the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team in steals and minutes played, and has averaged 9.0 ppg. and 5.3 rpg throughout here USA Basketball career.

2006 FIBA World Championship Facts

  • Site: Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Dates: Sept. 12-23, 2006
  • USA Head Coach: Anne Donovan, Seattle Storm
  • USA Assistant Coaches: Gail Goestenkors (Duke), Dawn Staley (Temple), Mike Thibault (Connecticut Sun)
  • USA Team Core: Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings, Lisa Leslie, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Katie Smith, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Diana Taurasi, four Players TBD
  • Nations Qualified: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, Nigeria, Russia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, USA.
  • USA World Championship Record: 80-20
  • USA Medal Count: 7 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze
  • USA World Championship Winning Streak: 19 games
  • Defending FIBA World Champion: United States