Washington Mystics center Stefanie Dolson will provide her take on the women’s basketball action in Rio. The 2015 All-Star can offer a unique perspective after participating in the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s National Team Minicamp and having played for U.S head coach Geno Auriemma at UConn.
The U.S. Women’s National Team looked great. I could tell from the game they came out extremely confident vs. Senegal. They looked like they shook off the nerves already. They’re an experienced team, they didn’t look nervous at all. With Diana having three 3-pointers in the first quarter, they looked really good, with a good rhythm from the start. It was a good game for them to shake off any nerves they did have.
Playing well, like they did, just gets rid of any nerves that you have, whether it’s any kind of anxiety, from never being there. There’s so much excitement around the Olympics, plus the Opening Ceremonies the night before. I think there’s so much excitement behind it, you just want to get started and shake off the jitters you have from being there, in the moment.
Luckily, in a game like this where you get ahead early, Coach Auriemma never says much about the score. To him, the score is always 0-0, so you’re just playing to be your best. It has nothing to do with how much you’re beating the team by. I’d imagine he was telling the team to not worry about the opponent, only worry about themselves by continuing to execute and playing great defense.
I think if anyone on the U.S. Women’s National Team gets hot, it also makes it that much harder for opponents. They already have an amazing team obviously — with the best players in the world — but when you have a player like Diana hitting three three-pointers in the first quarter, as an opponent you’re just like, “Welp! We’ll get them next time.”
With Diana, who is both a leader and amazing player, starting the game off like that, it gives the rest of the team confidence, telling everyone, “We’re okay.” Starting the tournament off like that, starting the team off like that gave players confidence the rest of the game.
It wasn’t all just the veterans, though, that contributed. Breanna Stewart plated great in her first Olympic game. She has worked so hard to get to the point where she is now, to go out and play like that (with team-leading 15 points). I’m really excited and happy for her to be in this position. I can’t wait to see how she gets going in the tournament and how the team keeps using her. As a fellow UConn alum, I’m proud.
It was also cool to see that Griner was added to the starting lineup. I mean, if you’ve got Tina Charles and Brittney Griner, that’s pretty unstoppable. Tina is athletic and can pretty much guard any type of post player, whether big, small, or quick. Then obviously you’ve got Brittney, who’s amazing defensively. She might not always block shots, but she’s changing everyone’s attempts, and Tina does the same thing really. So, defensively, the other team can’t even come into the paint, making it easier for guards to pressure the ball knowing they have so much help behind them.
I know we’re just beginning, but the Olympics in general are an amazing time of the year. Everyone looks forward to them. When you know the players, it makes it even better. Having the opportunity to be part of U.S.A. Basketball for quite a few years, I’ve really gotten to know them. The team includes quite a few UConn players, so I know them, too. It makes it even more exciting to watch them play, get this experience, and hopefully win the gold medal. It makes way more fun and personal.