The USA Basketball Women's National Team conducted its training camp this past weekend, Oct. 4-6, in Las Vesas, NV. Candace Parker, Lindsey Harding, Nneka Ogwumike and Jantel Lavender represented the Sparks among the 27 participants that included many Olympic gold medalist and WNBA All-Stars.
Sparks center Jantel Lavender
On the overall experience of participating in the USA National Team training camp:
"It was fun. I had a good time. Obviously its great competition because its the best players in the WNBA and in college, too. Im sore. It was a good workout. Like it said, it was fun."
What did you get out of the weekend?
"Great competition. Being able to play with great guards, people who can shoot the ball. You kick it out and nine times out of 10, its going in the basket. Its just fun playing with the best players, being able to do everything, having the right cutters. Its just great basketball, and its fun to play like that."
What was it like being coached by Geno Auriemma?
"Hes good. Hes intense in kind of a quiet way. You respect everything he says. He says it one time, and you just take it and do it. I like coaches who expect the best out of you. Thats how you want to play for those types of coaches you dont want to slack off or do anything less than the best because you know his expectations are really high. He makes everybody want to play at the highest level they can play at."
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike
How have the last two days gone for you?
"Its great. Its a privilege to be invited to this. Im really excited to be able to see some of my former USA Basketball teammates, some of my LA Sparks teammates, some Stanford teammates, and even people Ive played against. Its always good to collaborate and work together with an amazing coach and the best players who are playing right now."
What have you been doing to make yourself standout?
"Just do what I do, mostly just try to play as hard as I can. I just try to play every possession as hard as I can. I dont want to have any regrets when I step off the court. I want to say that I gave it all I could and I learn with everything; I know that I dont do everything perfect, but I want them to know that Im playing hard and going out there and doing whatever a team player needs to do."
After playing against Geno Auriemma in college, whats it like now being coached by him?
"Its great. To play under a coach who obviously coaches a team that youve had such a serious rivalry with over the years is great. Hes very accomplished, very decorated as a coach and its an honor to be able to play under him. He knows what hes doing and he makes us feel comfortable out there, he makes me feel comfortable out there at least, but Im sure Im speaking for everybody else also. I learn a lot when hes out there. He doesnt confuse anyone, which is great. Its definitely very exciting to be able to play under him."
Sparks forward/center Candace Parker
How have the last two days been?
"Its been good. A lot of people have showed what theyre capable of. A lot of people have come here and surprised some people. Obviously we have a lot of new faces, a lot of young talent. Overall, these last two days have been great."
Who surprised you or stood out?
"There have been a lot of young players. Kayla McBride, shes played extremely well. Shes knocking down the shot. I didnt realize how strong and how much of a pro body she has already. Obviously (Breanna) Stewart has played amazing. Those are two of the young players that have really stood out."
As someone who came out and played with the USA National Team while still in college, how important is it for these college athletes to be out here and gain this kind of experience?
"I think its great for young guys to get out, get this experience and be able to play at the highest level with the national team. Its a lot of fun because this is what you dream of doing, ever since you were younger, its to come out and play with the senior national team, try to get on the Olympic team and win a gold medal."
Today marks one year before the 2014 FIBA World Championship gold medal game. How important would it be for you to be playing for that 365 days from now?
"It would definitely mean a lot. Thats one of the things I havent done yet, havent been able to do yet. We fell short in 2006 and then I was hurt in 2010, so Im excited and working hard to hopefully achieve that."
For a full recap and more quotes from USA Basketball, click here.