USA hoops visits AU

Bender Arena was the location of the fifth day of training camp for the USA Basketball Women’s National Team’s Fall Showcase this past Sunday.

The event was one of the team’s six-day training camp that took place at AU. The training camp was geared towards preparing the players for the 2010 FIBA World Championship in the Czech Republic.

Many of the biggest stars in women’s basketball participated in the training camp as part of Team USA. These players included Sue Bird of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks and Maya Moore of the University of Connecticut.

Moore won the 2009 State Farm Wade Trophy Player of the Year, becoming the second sophomore to do so. The Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi and the Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings were unable to attend the camp because their teams are in the WNBA championship.

Geno Auriemma is the man in charge of the team and has an impressive track record. He is the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Connecticut, where he has built a winning program.

Auriemma has won six national titles and 20 combined national coach of the year trophies. On top of his trophies and championship, he is only four wins shy of 700 career victories. Auriemma said he was thrilled to be named head coach of the national team.

“It is a great opportunity for me,” he said. “It is a tremendous honor for me to work with some of the best players in the world.”

The showcase gave fans the unique opportunity to watch the top players in the country compete against each other. Auriemma as well as Assistant Coaches Doug Bruno and Jennifer Gillom ran players through different drills and corrected errors during the practice portion of the showcase. The practice segment finished with a full court intrasquad scrimmage. Afterwards, Auriemma answered questions from the fans in an open, post-practice question and answer session. Players and coaches also signed autographs and took pictures with the fans.

Auriemma was pleased with how well the overall training camp went, which culminated on Monday.

“I think it has gone great,” he said. “The level of play, how competitive the kids have been, how attentive they have been has been great.”

Many coaches have different styles when they take on a new team. Auriemma maintains that strong defense will be the ultimate key to winning games.

“When you have players that can score, the key to winning is the commitment to defense,” he said. “We must be good on the defensive end.”

Bird of the Seattle Strom played for Auriemma at Connecticut. She echoed his statements about the training camp and the way to win games and ultimately championships.

“It’s gone great,” she said. “We have really come together in a short period of time.”

The team is headed to Russia, where they will participate in the 2009 UMMC Ekaterinburg International Invitational. Team USA will face off against both Russian and Euroleague professional teams.

You can reach this writer at sports@theeagleonline.com.

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