Asjha Jones Named To 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 23, 2012) – With the addition of 2010 FIBA World Championship gold medalist Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun), the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team was finalized today by USA Basketball. Jones, who joins the 11 previously announced team members, was selected by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee, approved by the USA Basketball Board of Directors and is pending final approval by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“It’s an honor,” said Jones. “My mom, everyone in my family is so excited for me. I think it’s exciting how people respond to you when you tell them. A lot of people want to cry. Just to see the way people react to the news is really special. I’m really exited. I’m so excited to be a part of this.

“It was kind of like I was in disbelief and shock,” Jones said about hearing the news. “I kind of put the Olympics out of my head because I didn’t think I was going to be on the team. First I was surprised that Carol (Callan) was even calling me. Then when I answered and she told me the news, I was very surprised, very shocked. I was really, really honored to be picked up.”

“I’m excited,” said USA and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma. “I think it’s well deserved. She adds an awful lot of maturity, experience and talent to this team. Some of the teams that we’re going to have to beat in the Olympics, the best teams are really the ones who have the most experienced post players. Asjha has proven herself both in the WNBA and overseas to be able to defend anybody and to be able to score. She’s got experience. All of the things you would look for in a player, she has those qualities. So, when we’re looking at who that 12th player was, having somebody with Asjha’s experience and certainly what she’s done overseas, especially this year, has given us a lot of comfort knowing that we have somebody who can really compliment the other post players who have already been named.”

“As always, this decision was very difficult due to the breadth and quality of the USA National Team pool,” said USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan, a member of the selection committee. “Asjha has shown her abilities throughout the EuroLeague season, culminating in earning MVP honors at the Final Eight. Her abilities and leadership as a veteran of international basketball and over the last several years with our USA National Team program makes her a great choice for this final spot. Her experience pushed her forward in terms of selecting the final roster spot.”

The 6-3 forward was a member of the 2007-08 USA National Team, but was injured during the September 2007 training camp and unable to participate in drills. She returned in 2009, and in her first stint playing for USA Basketball aided the USA to a 3-0 mark and the 2009 UMMC Ekaterinburg International Invitational title. Named to the 2010 USA World Championship Team, Jones was on hand for the team’s four pre-World Championship exhibition games and went on to help lead the U.S. to the gold at the Worlds. Last fall Jones played in the final three of the USA’s five games in its 2011 European Tour.

A 10-year WNBA veteran, Jones is a two-time WNBA All-Star and was named to the 2008 All-WNBA second team. She competes professionally in Europe and after helping propel her Rivas Ecopolis (Spain) squad to the 2012 EuroLeague championship game, Jones was named the 2012 EuroLeague Final Eight MVP. She closed out the season averaging a EuroLeague career-high 17.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game for Rivas in EuroLeague games. In her four-year (1999-2002) collegiate career Jones, who played for Auriemma at the University of Connecticut, aided the Huskies to a 136-9 record (.938), won a pair of NCAA crowns (2000, 2002) while advancing to four NCAA Tournaments, including the 2001 Final Four, and earned four Big East regular season and tournament titles.

Named on March 30 to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team were: Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Swin Cash (Chicago Sky), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx). The well-balanced and talented U.S. squad will compete for the USA’s fifth-consecutive Olympic gold medal in London this summer. Auriemma will be assisted by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, 1988 Olympic gold medalist and Washington Mystics assistant coach Jennifer Gillom and Atlanta Dream head coach Marynell Meadors.

The USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee is comprised of WNBA representatives Reneé Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations; Dan Hughes, head coach/General Manager of the San Antonio Silver Stars; and Chief Operating Officer/General Manager of the Indiana Fever Kelly Krauskopf; athlete representative and five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards; and Callan.

2012 Olympic Games
Four-time defending Olympic gold medalists, the U.S. will look to capture its fifth straight and seventh overall gold medal and extend its 33-game Olympic winning streak at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. The Olympic women’s basketball competition will be held July 28-Aug. 11 in the Olympic Park Basketball Arena (preliminary round and quarterfinals) and North Greenwich Arena (semifinals and finals).

The draw to determine the two preliminary round pools of six teams each is scheduled to be held April 28 at the FIBA Central Board meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The preliminary round, played July 28-Aug. 5, will feature a round-robin schedule and the top four finishing teams will advance to the Aug. 7 quarterfinals. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 9, and the finals will be played on Aug. 11.

Seven countries have claimed spots in the eventual 12-nation field, including host country Great Britain; the United States, which earned its berth by virtue of earning the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship; and five nations which earned the gold medal at their respective FIBA zone qualifying tournaments, including Angola (FIBA Africa), Australia (FIBA Oceania), Brazil (FIBA Americas), China (FIBA Asia) and Russia (FIBA Europe).

The final five teams will earn their spots at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (June 25 - July 1 in Ankara, Turkey), which will feature 12 nations from each of the five 2011 FIBA zone qualifying tournaments as follows: two from FIBA Africa, including Mali (bronze medalists) and Mozambique (fifth-place finisher); three from FIBA Americas, including Argentina (silver medal), Canada (bronze medalist) and Puerto Rico (fifth-place finisher); two from FIBA Asia, including South Korea (silver medalist) and Japan (bronze medalist); four from FIBA Europe, including Turkey (silver medalist), France (bronze medalist), Czech Republic (fourth place) and Croatia (fifth place); and New Zealand (silver medalist) from FIBA Oceania.

Asjha Jones
What does being an Olympian mean to you?
It’s an honor. My mom, everyone in my family is so excited for me. I think it’s exciting how people respond to you when you tell them. A lot of people want to cry. Just to see the way people react to the news is really special. I’m really exited. I’m so excited to be a part of this.

Who did you call first?
(laughs) Actually Coach Auriemma. It was part of the stipulation that I call him immediately. Carol told me ‘it’s not official until you call Coach Auriemma and let him know you spoke to me.’ So, he was the first person I called.

What kind of emotions were you feeling when you heard the news that you were going to be added to the team?
It was kind of like disbelief and shock. I kind of put the Olympics out of my head because I didn’t think I was going to be on the team. First I was surprised that Carol (Callan) was even calling me. Then when I answered and she told me the news, I was very surprised, very shocked. I was really, really honored to be picked up.

Do you think your play this season in Europe really solidified your selection?
I think so. I think that probably put me over the top when they were figuring out this spot. I’m sure there were other people they were considering, but I think being named MVP of Europe was a big deal and definitely helped my standing with the committee.

There are now six former UConn players on the team. What does that mean to you to be able to do something like this with not only your college coach, but some of your former college teammates?
Some people will probably think that we were picked because he’s our coach. But, I think we’ve all proved ourselves outside of college. We’ve been removed from college for over 10 years now. I think that being back with the group again and being back with Coach Auriemma is going to be very special for me to be able to be coached by him again, and doing it with my friends will make it even more special.

Is this something you’ve dreamed about for a long time or is it something that you only recently thought it was an achievable goal?
Right, because I wasn’t always a part of it. For me, I hadn’t really thought about it until I became a part of the national team. Once I thought I wasn’t able to make the team, I realized how much I wanted it. When I was told I wasn’t going to make it (as part of the first 11), it hurt me a lot. I didn’t know it would hurt that much until I got the call. That’s why I was so excited when I got the next call and found out I was added to the team. But that’s how it is. There are so many good players in our country, it’s going to be like that.

Did you watch the Beijing Olympics in 2008?
I tried to as much as possible, but the games came on at such crazy hours it was hard to catch. I watched the Opening Ceremonies and I was just so proud to see all of the people I know being a part of that.

What about growing up. Did you watch the Olympics in past years?
Yeah, we watched everything. But definitely for the women’s basketball in ’96. Seeing how professional they were, how dominant they were, how aggressive they were and watching their passion for the game was really important for me when I was growing up.

Geno Auriemma
What do you think about adding Asjha Jones add to the team and what does she bring to the mix of talent you already have?
I’m excited. I think it’s well deserved. She adds an awful lot of maturity, experience and talent to this team. Some of the teams that we’re going to have to beat in the Olympics, the best teams are really the ones who have the most experienced post players. Asjha has proven herself both in the WNBA and overseas to be able to defend anybody and to be able to score. She’s got experience. All of the things you would look for in a player, she has those qualities. So, when we’re looking at who that 12th player was, having somebody with Asjha’s experience and certainly what she’s done overseas, especially this year, has given us a lot of comfort knowing that we have somebody who can really compliment the other post players who have already been named.

You mentioned her play in the EuroLeague this season. Do you think that the committee took that into account?
I think so. Also, Asjha’s been in the WNBA a long time. She’s finally healthy and I think that’s a big part of it. Certainly her performance over in Europe this year, people have been raving about how well she’s playing. To me, the fact that you play against those players over there, competed against them, had success against them, a lot of times they’re the same people you’re going to be playing against in the Olympics.

People are going to ask about the six players who are former UConn players. What do you have to say about that?
I would like to think that one: it’s a coincidence. I would like that regardless of who the coach was, there’s a pretty good chance that every one of those players would be on this team. They earned it. All the accolades that these players have gotten, they didn’t get those accolades because they played at UConn. They got those accolades because of what they’ve done in their pro careers, since they left Connecticut. That speaks to their talent and their level of being able to win at every level they’ve been at. They didn’t make the team because I’m the coach. They made the team because they deserve to be on the team.

How pleased are you that the 12-member team is now complete?
I’ve been involved in this program for four years and the training camp in Seattle will be the first time I will be with the whole team. I’m really excited, obviously, to get to work with them, to see them all in one place and to see what they can do. It’s going to be exciting. I want to see how they interact. I want to see how they play together. Most of them, all but Candace (Parker) and Seimone (Augustus) have already played together on the USA World Championship Team that I coached. So there’s a tremendous amount of familiarity there on both sides – me with them and them with me. I’m looking forward to it.