USA Basketball Notebook: Sept. 20

Parker Impresses, Augustus Goes
Down in Final U.S. Warmup

UNCASVILLE, Conn., Sept. 20 -- When Team USA's lineup was announced prior to their exhibition game Wednesday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena against Australia, I did a double-take when I heard Tennessee forward/center/guard Candace Parker was a starter. I'd heard all the hype, I'd seen her play both live and on TV and I know she's the dream offseason addition for any WNBA lottery team. But with players like Tina Thompson, Seimone Augustus, Sue Bird and Rebekkah Brunson among others at her disposal, how could coach Anne Donovan pick a 21-year-old college player to start on this veritable All-Star team?

But after watching Parker's 23-point, five-rebound performance in leading the United States to a hard-fought 70-66 victory over the Opals, her starting status seemed to make a lot more sense. At 6-3, she's big, strong, quick and skilled and can post up, shoot, dribble, pass, run and rebound. She's remarkably versatile, she can jump and she's a great shot-blocker on defense.

Parker could be a major player for the U.S. as the Donovan-led group heads down to Chile next week for the FIBA Americas tournament, the winner of which will secure a spot at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

But Parker is not a WNBA player. Not yet, at least.

All I can say is that she'll make whichever WNBA team is lucky enough to get her (eventually… either next May or in May of 2009) both very happy and very good.

Legion of Pain for Augustus

While the U.S. managed to pull out the victory against the Lauren Jackson- and Penny Taylor-less Australian team, it came at a bit of a cost. Second-year Minnesota Lynx star Seimone Augustus went down in the third quarter with what was diagnosed as a bruised left shoulder after apparently running into a rough pick. Despite missing most of the second half, she was still the team's second-leading scorer against Australia with 12.

Augustus laid on the ground for several minutes and walked off the court under what appeared to be considerable pain, and she spent the remainder of the game icing her shoulder on the bench. After some postgame therapy, the ice was off and she seemed to be moving fairly normally.

Team trainer Ed Ryan said that the injury would likely take three to four days to heal, but that it shouldn't affect Augustus' status for the FIBA Americas.

Home Cookin'?

While there were thunderous cheers for former Connecticut Lady Huskies Sue Bird and Swin Cash from the 5,000-plus hometown fans in attendance, two others were surprised with the positive receptions they received.

The crowd also applauded as the names of Parker and (another former Tennessee Lady Vol) Kara Lawson were called. The reaction was a bit of a surprise for Parker, especially given the fierce rivalry between the two schools.

"It's great to have women's basketball the way it is here," Parker said. "I never thought I'd say that, but it's great. They really embrace women's basketball.

"Kara and I were betting on whether or not they would boo us, but they didn't and we were really happy playing here."

But for one night, Bird said the college-level rivalry should take a backseat.

"This might be the one time (Parker and Lawson) come to Connecticut and don't get booed," she said, "but I'll take it. They're on my team tonight. No booing allowed."

Roster Changes

Fielding a lineup of just 11 players on Wednesday, the U.S. has several other stars set to join the squad in (or on the way to) Chile, including WNBA champs Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter of the Mercury and Shock veteran Katie Smith.

With all three named to the team's lineup for the FIBA tournament, two players will need to be cut by Donovan and rest of the organization's coaching staff.

USA TODAY is reporting that Liberty center Jessica Davenport will not make the trip and that Stanford guard Candice Wiggins would go as an alternate.

The final American roster heading into Wednesday's FIBA Americas opener against Cuba would then be as follows: Augustus, Bird, Brunson, Cash, Lawson, DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics), Courtney Paris (University of Oklahoma) Parker, Pondexter, Smith, Taurasi and Thompson.

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