Taurasi headlines US women's basketball team headed to Belgium for pre-Olympic tournament

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Five-time Olympic champion Diana Taurasi was selected Sunday as part of the U.S. national team that will play in a pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgium this week.

Taurasi is one of seven former Olympians on the roster. She's joined by Ariel Atkins, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Breanna Stewart and Jackie Young. Additionally 2022 World Cup champions Kahleah Copper, Sabrina Ionescu and Alyssa Thomas will be part of the team.

Aliyah Boston and Rhyne Howard round out the squad. Both players will be making their debuts with the senior national team.

This summer's Olympic roster could be different than the one playing in Belgium.

“We made that pretty clear," selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said. “Going there doesn't guarantee you're an Olympian.”

Former Olympians A’ja Wilson, Brittney Griner and Chelsea Gray were unavailable to play in Belgium this week. All three have a really good chance to be on the Olympic team.

The U.S. will play three games in Belgium this week beginning with the host team on Thursday. More than 14,000 tickets have been sold for that game and coach Cheryl Reeve expects a loud crowd that will be rooting on the home team.

“We're expecting to go over there and be in a really tough environment,” the U.S. coach said on Sunday at the end of a three-day training camp in New York. “There'll be 14,000 people rooting against us. It's obviously a really good team as we open it, open the tournament. I'm hoping to experience that adversity in a way that helps prepare us for the next step.”

Reeve also feels potential adversity will help the team get ready for the Paris Olympics where the U.S. will be trying for an eighth consecutive gold medal.

“It'll be illuminating as far as maybe what we need to do as a coaching staff. How we can better utilize players. Those challenges are what we are looking forward to,” she said.

The Americans will also face Nigeria and Senegal in that tournament. The top two teams in that pool other than the Americans will qualify for the Paris Games. There are three other qualifying tournaments in Brazil, China and Hungary being played at the same time to help round out the 12-team Olympic field. France has also already qualified as the host nation.

The Americans will have another training camp at the Final Four in Cleveland in April before getting together right before the Olympics in Phoenix for a few days.

Rizzotti said there's no specific timetable to announce the Olympic roster.

“We're going to let this Belgium trip play out and then have conversations in late February and in March to talk about the April camp," she said. "April is last opportunity to evaluate everyone.”

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AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games