Parker, Snow picked for national team

The women's basketball national team has three players from Tennessee – two graduates and one still in college – giving the USA squad a splash of orange. The newest members of the team – Candace Parker and Michelle Snow – said playing for the Lady Vols prepared them for the competitive environment they faced when trying out for one of the 12 coveted spots on Team USA.

Tamika Catchings is the third player on the team with ties to Tennessee, giving the Lady Vols 25 percent of the slots on the team. The SEC also is represented by Seimone Augustus (LSU) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (Florida), so nearly half of the squad hails from the women's powerhouse conference. Connecticut is also well represented with Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. The other five players are: Alana Beard (Duke); Cheryl Ford (Louisiana Tech); Katie Smith (Ohio State); Sheryl Swoopes (Texas Tech); and Tina Thompson (Southern Cal). Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers) is an alternate.

Parker is the only team member still in college and at 20, the youngest player. The oldest is Swoopes, who is 35. (The youngest player ever on the national team was Kara Wolters of Connecticut, who was 18 when she made the team in 1994.)

Candace Parker and Michelle Snow have been in training camp with the USA team since Aug. 29. Ford's WNBA team, the Detroit Shock, is in the WNBA Finals against Sacramento and faces elimination tonight. An additional spot opened up for a post player when national team stalwart Lisa Leslie announced she wouldn't play because of a family medical emergency involving her uncle, who was injured in a car accident Aug. 27.

"Obviously it's a big disappointment that Lisa won't be with us," said USA coach Anne Donovan. "Our hearts go out to Lisa and her family, and we hope that her uncle recovers fully and that Lisa, emotionally, gets better and stronger everyday. She will definitely be missed on this World Championship Team. … The need for her to be there with her family was clear from the outset."

Donovan's disappointment was offset somewhat by the play of Snow in the paint and the offensive versatility of Parker. Donovan said the USA's team strength is its depth, and Snow, Parker and Ford should be key pieces of the post puzzle. During a media teleconference Wednesday afternoon, Donovan specifically mentioned Snow's ability to rebound.

"That's what I love about our post players," Donovan said. "All post players are working hard on rebounding."

Snow said, "You have to remember it's going to be physical … and we've got to control the boards. You know you're going to have the wider lane (in international play)."

Snow also pointed out that opponents would face up more in the lane so "you've got to be able to move your feet."

Parker and Snow cited playing for Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt as perfect preparation for handling the top-notch competition of USA basketball and international play.

"Playing at the University of Tennessee for me personally it prepared me as far as being able to be a disciplined player as well as a well-rounded player," Snow said Wednesday. "Pat Summitt really teaches us to learn the game of basketball and to recognize zones or however a person is playing us, and we have to be able to counter that however that may be. She really teaches you the game of basketball. That is one of the most important things that has prepared me to play in international competition."

"Playing at Tennessee definitely has prepared me for the next level because you learn a lot of things about the game of basketball, about how to counter what other players do to you," Parker said Wednesday. "Coach Summitt preaches that you have to be a disciplined player. That means playing both sides of the ball and being a great teammate. I think that's helped us take it to the next level and be able to play and represent our country."

The team will get one last tune-up stateside on Thursday in a 7 p.m. exhibition game against Australia at Duke in Durham, N.C., before departing for San Paolo, Brazil. (Tickets for that game are available by logging onto goduke.com, calling 877-375-DUKE or stopping by the Duke Athletic Ticket Office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Prices range from $7-$27 with group sales also available.)

The World Championships will be held Sept. 12-23. The United States, the defending champion, has been placed in Group C along with China, Nigeria and Russia. Group A consists of Argentina, host Brazil, South Korea and Spain; Group B, Australia, Canada, Lithuania and Senegal; and Group D, Cuba, Czech Republic, France and Chinese Taipei.

All of the USA's games will be televised live on NBA-TV, with the Fox Sports Network re-airing the games at midnight (EDT). The United States tips off preliminary round play against China on Sept. 12 at 6:45 p.m., followed by the USA vs. Nigeria on Sept. 13 at 6:45 p.m., and vs. Russia on Sept. 14 at 4:30 p.m. (all times EDT).

The top three finishing teams from each preliminary round group move to the second round, where the top three teams in Group C, the USA's preliminary pool, will compete Sept. 16-18 against the top three teams in Group D. Those times haven't been set yet. The advancing teams from Group A and Group B will face off in the second round.

Quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Sept. 20-21. On Sept. 23, the bronze medal game will be contested at 10 a.m., with the gold medal game following at 1 p.m.

Parker, despite her tender years, has some international experience, as does Snow, who now plays for the Houston Comets. Snow played with the 2006 USA Basketball Senior National Team for the March 17-24 European Tour and for the 2004 national team on a European tour. Snow also played on the USA's R. William Jones Cup Team that won the gold medal in Taiwan.

Parker played for the 2004 USA Junior World Championship Qualifying Team that won the gold medal. Most recently, she played last spring with the senior national team, which posted a 4-1 record at the Australia-hosted 2006 Opals World Challenge. Parker led the U.S. squad with 18.0 points per game and shot 69 percent from the floor to lead all players in field goal percentage. She also averaged 8.4 rebounds and two assists per game.

It was this offensive output that caught the eye of Donovan and made Parker a virtual lock to make the team in the fall. Val Ackerman, the president of USA Basketball, said Parker was "without question one of the women's games great young players" and the assembled team was a "compelling blend of veterans and rising stars."

Parker "showed her value playing at the senior level," Donovan said. "Candace showed us she was very capable, especially offensively."

Donovan said that while she watched training camp this past week, she would have liked to be able to ask a stranger to circle the only college player on the floor. Given the Tennessee sophomore's performance, Donovan doubted that anyone would have picked Parker.

"You wouldn't know," Donovan said. "The better players we put around Candace, the better Candace performs."

Parker, in typical fashion, deflected the praise.

"This has been a tremendous experience for me just being on the floor with the best basketball players," Parker said. "I'm really excited and willing to do whatever I can to help. … I was so excited when the coaches told me that they had picked me. This is such a great opportunity for me to represent my country. I've always admired former Tennessee players Tamika Catchings and Michelle Snow and I can't wait to play with them and the other great women's basketball players on Team USA."

The United States has a record seven gold medals, one silver and one bronze at the FIBA World Championship, while compiling an 80-20 overall record, including a 19-0 winning streak that dates back to the 1994 bronze medal game. Donovan will be assisted by 2006 WNBA Coach of the Year Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Duke and Dawn Staley of Temple.

"Michelle Snow and Candace Parker have both done a great job for us here in camp, and both trained with us in the spring," Donovan said. "They've been working hard to fill the void that we have in the post and both will be good additions to this team in our quest to win another gold medal. … Both have proven in a short amount of time their value to the team."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories