USA Basketball Team to Play Exhibition Games Against Top Women's College Teams
Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird are among eight WNBA players from the 2019-20 USA Basketball national team who will compete against women's college basketball teams in exhibition games this fall and winter. A schedule of games will be announced at a later date.
The inter-league exhibition games are part of an expanded training program to help the women's national team prepare for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. A similar college tour was done before the 1996, 2000 and 2008 Olympics as well. The U.S. women's basketball team has won six consecutive gold medals at the Olympics dating back to 1996.
Taurasi and Bird have played on four Olympic champion teams together beginning in 2004.
"This program gives us an opportunity to keep a core group of players together and to build chemistry and cohesion while some of our other players who are in the pool are overseas playing," Team USA coach Dawn Staley said, per ESPN. "I'm super excited about it. I hope it develops into something that's long-lasting, because it's needed."
Minnesota's Sylvia Fowles, Washington's Elena Delle Donne, Los Angeles' Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas' A'ja Wilson, and Dallas' Skylar Diggins-Smith will join Taurasi and Bird on the tour and other players will be added to the roster as their schedules allow. The eight players will commit to being available for five training segments that will take place from November 2019 to April 2020.
"It's the right amount of training so we can gear up and get ready for the Olympics, and also it gives us the right amount of exposure where we can really create some momentum heading into the Olympics," Bird said.
The NCAA will grant waivers so member institutions can play in the exhibition games against the U.S. team without violating college eligibility rules.