Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.
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From the UConn WBB Weekly:
From The UConn Blog:
- Chasing Perfection: UConn’s 2021-22 season start date locked in
- UConn women’s basketball to open 2021-22 regular season against Arkansas
- UConn women’s basketball already capitalizing on NIL
- Caroline Ducharme, with “huge” chip on shoulder, quietly surprising at UConn
- The hub for all our UConn in the Olympics coverage — Day by day updates of all the Huskies in the Olympics, including the current and former UConn women’s basketball players.
Last week’s Weekly:
- NCAA Undervalued Women’s Basketball Tournament by Millions While Prioritizing Men’s Tourney, Report Finds (WSJ) — Shocker.
- UConn women hoops players making mark at Olympics (AP)
- Gabby Williams: Olympics ‘where I’m supposed to be’ (ESPN)
Predicting which Huskies will be on Team USA’s 2024 Olympic roster
Since the Athens Olympics in 2004, at least two former UConn women’s basketball players have made Team USA’s roster for the games. This year, there are five Huskies playing for the red, white and blue in Tokyo.
While the 2020 Olympics are still going on, there’s a bit of a Last Dance vibe for Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi — especially after the former made it clear she won’t still be playing when the 2024 games in Paris come around.
When Bird and Taurasi do eventually hang it up, UConn will still have a presence on the USA Olympic team going forward — but exactly what that looks like is still unclear.
Because of that, we decided to predict which current and former Huskies will be heading to Paris with Team USA for the 2024 Olympics, categorized into three tiers: Locks, fringe and long shots.
Barring injury, Stewart will be one of the easiest selections for the next Olympic roster. Not only is she current the best basketball player in the world, she’ll only be 29 in 2024 — still in the prime of her career.
While Paris would be Stewart’s third trip to the Olympics, she still has a long ways to go to catch up to Bird and Taurasi. But is it possible the four-time national champion could also be a five-time Olympian? Bird thinks so.
“Well, she started young, so that’s the key,” she said. “I was lucky in a way, Dee (Diana Taurasi) as well. When you have an Olympics right after college, a year or two after college, you’re already off to a good start. And with Stewie, what you’re seeing is just a player who continues to add to their game.”
The thought has crossed Stewart’s mind as well.
“It’s something we talked about actually in practice, probably last week,” she mentioned. “If I am a five time Olympian, I’ll be 37 (in 2032). So I’m younger than [Bird and Taurasi]. So, it’s possible.”
While Collier hasn’t played much in Tokyo, she’s on the roster to gain experience more so than to actually contribute. USA Basketball clearly views her as an important piece of the future and she’ll only be 27 in 2024.
With Sylvia Fowles (35), Tina Charles (32) and Brittney Griner (30) all on the wrong side of 30, there could also be some frontcourt turnover depending on how the next three years go for those players. As long as Collier continues to develop at the same rate as we’ve seen over the last three seasons, she should play a much larger role in the Paris games.
Speaking of Charles, the 32-year old was dominant this season in the WNBA before leaving for Tokyo and has been a solid presence off the bench for Team USA through four games. Whether or not she makes it will depend on both on her own performance as well as the development of other post players in the pool. If Charles continues to play at a high level and no other bigs move past her, she’ll be on the squad in 2024.
Bueckers is already the best college player in the country and is a lock to be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft whenever she leaves UConn. Stewart made the 2016 Olympic team before she had played her first professional game as did Taurasi back in 2004. Meanwhile, Maya Moore made the 2012 squad one year after graduating.
All that’s to say it’s not uncommon for an elite player to make it right out of college. Bueckers might not be a popular choice — especially considering the cries about USA Basketball’s supposed UConn bias — but by 2024, she’ll probably be one of the best guards in the pool, regardless of age, and it’ll also be the perfect opportunity to give her a taste of the Olympics without much pressure.
Katie Lou Samuelson
Already a fringe member of the USA Basketball pool, Samuelson has a better chance of going to Paris with the 3x3 team than the 5x5 squad. To this point in her career, Samuelson still hasn’t found her footing as a professional and the more time that passes, the less likely it is that she ever will. With so few spots available on the Olympic 5x5 team, Samuelson needs to become a bonafide star in the WNBA over the next three seasons to even enter the conversation.
As of now, we don’t even know if Moore will ever return to basketball. But Moore has taken two years off and is only 32 years old, so it’s not like there’s been a lot of wear and tear on her body recently.
Look no further than Michael Jordan, who took nearly two seasons off at the exact same age before returning and winning three straight championships. There’s a precedent for Moore.
If she does play again and picks up where she left off as one of the best players in the world, she’ll certainly become part of the national team again. However, Moore’s listed as a long shot because there’s still no indication that she will return to basketball and the longer the hiatus lasts, the less likely it is to ever end.
We’ll learn a lot about Williams and her future based on how her upcoming senior season goes. She clearly turned a corner during the postseason and arguably became UConn’s best overall player in both the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament but now, she’ll need to maintain that level for an entire season. That’s a big ask, especially when Williams has struggled with consistency more than anything else in her UConn career.
But Williams was the No. 1 prospect in the country for a reason and while her UConn career has largely been disappointing, she’s still one of the most talented players in the country. If she can finally put it all together and start playing up to her potential — like we saw in the postseason — the sky’s truly the limit for her.
There’s a whole lot of hypotheticals in that scenario, though. Even if Williams does have a monster senior season and becomes a star in the WNBA, it would still be tough for her to crack the 2024 Olympic roster less than three seasons into her professional career.
Even if Fudd is the generational superstar that many believe she’ll be, an active collegiate player hasn’t made a US Olympic roster since 1988. By 2024, Fudd will have just completed her junior season and won’t have any professional experience — unlike Bueckers, who could have at least a few months of WNBA action by the time the games begin. Unless Fudd is dominating the college game at the level we’ve never seen, it’s difficult to imagine her going to Paris.
Best of social media
The future is here:
Azzi Fudd had to sing Party in the USA to get her phone back:
This is exactly what I needed. If you leave something on this team, you have to sing to get it back. @azzi_35 must have been desperate to get her phone back because she really didn’t want to do it. Laughter is very therapeutic. Thanks Azzi. pic.twitter.com/vrLcNFTAYV— Cori Close (@CoachCoriClose) August 3, 2021
Kalana Greene, still a Husky at heart: