Each week leading up to the Olympic Games later this summer, we will introduce you to the WNBA players who will be representing their countries in Athens. From first-timers to veteran Olympians, the WNBA's best and brightest stars will be showcasing their skills on the world's biggest stage.

Sheryl Swoopes, United States
By Matt Wurst, WNBA.com
The Basics

Country United States
Hometown Brownfield, Texas
WNBA Team Houston Comets
Position Forward
Height 6-0
Weight 145 lbs.
Birthday March 25, 1971
Olympic exp. 1996, 2000
In preparing for what could have been her fourth Olympics, Houston Comets forward Sheryl Swoopes is content with this being just her third. As a senior at Texas Tech University, Swoopes tried out for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team and barely missed making the team. But ever since then, she has been one of the most dominant and visible ambassadors of the game, a core member and the starting small forward of just about every United States Women's Team. This time around, she will be joined by Comets head coach Van Chancellor and teammate Tina Thompson.

In becoming one of the faces of the increasingly-popular sport of women's basketball, Swoopes was the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her, the Air Swoopes, prior to the historic 1995-96 U.S. pre-Olympic exhibition tour. During the tour, she averaged 11.9 ppg., 4.3 rpg. and 2.7 apg. for the team that posted a 52-0 record. That team eventually won the gold in Atlanta and became pioneers in the creation of the WNBA.

Signed by the WNBA as an inaugural player and assigned to the Houston Comets in 1997, Swoopes has been one of the most successful players in the league's history. Remarkably, she gave birth to her son, Jordan, on June 25, 1997, and made her WNBA debut on only six weeks later, arriving just in time for the playoffs and to help the Comets to their first of their eventual four consecutive WNBA titles. She has gone on to earn All-WNBA first team honors four times (1998-2000, 2002) and All-WNBA second team honors in 2003. She was the leading vote-getter for the 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003 WNBA All-Star Games and has won WNBA Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year honors in both 2000 and 2002. Last season, she was again named the top defensive player.

She returned to USA Basketball to help the United States in 2000 to its second consecutive gold medal Olympic performance and another gold in the 2002 World Championships. This spring, Swoopes played in and started in all nine of the United States' 13 exhibition games, including the three in her new home arena in Houston. She averaged 10.7 points per game, 3.3 assists per game and 3.9 rebounds per game as the U.S. finished its spring training with a perfect 13-0 record.

Swoopes will be going to her third Olympics
(Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images)
Up close and Personal

Do you have a favorite Olympic sport other than basketball?
"Track and field."

Do you have a favorite Olympic memory growing up or any favorite Olympic athletes?
"I really don't have one Olympic memory that stands out from growing up. My favorite Olympic athlete is probably Jackie Joyner-Kersee or Gail Devers."

Are there any particular athletes you are looking forward to meeting once you get there?
"We are in the middle of our (WNBA) season, so I really haven't thought about meeting other athletes."

Do you think that other countries are catching up to the U.S. on the international stage?
"I think a lot of the other countries have gotten better and are not only focusing on competing with the U.S., but beating us. So I would definitely say they are starting to catch up rather quickly."

What are you most looking forward to about Athens and the entire event?
"The thing I'm looking forward to in Athens is being able to go back to where it all got started, as far as the Olympics, and being able to share that with my son (Jordan). I think that will be a life-time experience for both of us. And I'm just excited about being there with a lot of great athletes."

Since your team plays together so infrequently, how do different styles gel?
"I think at this level you just have to be professionals and understand, especially for us right now, that we don't have a lot of time to practice and prepare for the competition. We're going to have to rely on a lot of our veterans and experience. The veterans being able to help the younger players along so hopefully it won't take us that long to gel."

For you, Lisa and Dawn, who have been here now a number of times, do you take on more of a leadership role despite all the players on the team being so great?
"I think because we have been there before and getting ready to play in our third Olympics, I think not only do I take on more of a leadership role, but the three of us together understand what our roles are and understand how tough it's going to be for us to be able to go over there and bring home a gold medal. So it is our jobs to be those leaders for everybody else on the team. Despite the fact that everybody on this team is great, I think every team has to have some type of leader and I think that's definitely a role the three of us are willing to take."

How special is it that you get to experience this with Tina (Thompson) this time around?
"I'm extremely excited about getting an opportunity to play in what will probably be my last Olympics with Tina. Being able to say I ended my last Olympics playing with a lot of great players, but especially having a chance to play with Tina and for Coach (Van) Chancellor is something I'm looking forward to. I think it'll be a lot of fun."

Game on Game

Tina Thompson, Houston Comets and U.S. teammate:
"Sheryl and I have experienced so many things together as far as basketball is concerned. We've had a long-standing relationship in competition and we've achieved so many positive things within our careers. So winning a gold medal together would definitely be icing on the cake."

Katie Smith, U.S. teammate:
"She is a self-proclaimed diva! She works so hard, but also has a good time and is fun to play with. Along with Lisa Leslie, she is one of the leaders of the team."

Lisa Leslie, U.S. teammate:
"She is right up there with me and Tina Thompson as far as competitiveness goes. Just a winner."

Svetlana Abrosimova, Team Russia forward:
"She likes to create and when she plays defense she creates opportunities to run. She runs the floor great and uses the left hand well."

Dawn Staley, U.S. teammate:
"The most explosive offensive player and deceptive defensive player that I have played with. She is a gamer."

DeLisha Milton-Jones, U.S. teammate:
"Swoopes, there it is. What more can you say? She is a baaaad girl."

USA Basketball Statistics

2002 WC
9/ 9
66- 127
12- 29
8- 12
2002 WCX
4/ 4
27- 54
5- 11
3- 6
2002 WNT
1/ 1
4- 9
1- 1
1- 2
2000 OLY
8/ 8
46- 89
6- 19
9- 13
2000 WNT
5/ 2
18- 36
2- 9
13- 15
1999 WNT
5/ 5
26- 57
2- 15
13- 16
1996 OLY
8/ 8
47- 86
7- 20
3- 4
1995-96 WNT
195- 399
42- 121
55- 70
1994 WC
8/ 2
29- 52
7- 11
8- 12
1994 GWG
4/ 4
18- 31
4- 9
3- 5

Yolanda Griffith, USA
Dawn Staley, USA
Sue Bird, USA
Tina Thompson, USA
Katie Smith, USA
Lauren Jackson, Australia
Lisa Leslie, USA
Tamika Catchings, USA
Swin Cash, USA

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