Michelle Snow and Cappie Pondexter of the WNBA and Tennessee sophomore Candace Parker have been invited to train with the 2006 USA Basketball Women's World Championship team in hopes of securing one of the final two spots on the 12-member squad, USA Basketball announced Monday.
Team officials originally named 11 players to the roster on Aug. 1, leaving only one final vacancy. But two-time Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith of the Sacramento Monarchs has withdrawn from the team.
Griffith, who is 36, pulled out to spend more time with her daughter, Candace, as well as give her body some rest.
"I didn't feel that I would be able to play at 100 percent," Griffith said. "I have played in two Olympic Games and would love to play for USA Basketball again in the future, but at this time I just don't think it would be fair to my teammates. This was not an easy decision to make."
Team USA coach Anne Donovan emphasized her squad's mix of youth and veterans.
"Yolanda is a skilled player with not only two Olympics under her belt, but also years of international experience," Donovan said. "Losing her is hard, but we'll have to focus on the players we have on the team as well as those who are coming in to try and earn a spot. All three of these players have had experience with USA Basketball at the senior level, they all came out this spring and I'm excited to see how they'll fit into the group of players we already have."
The 10 members of the 2006 USA World Championship team include Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Alana Beard (Washington Mystics), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks), DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics), Katie Smith (Detroit Shock), Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets). The eventual 12-member team will be finalized prior to the squad departing for Brazil on Sept. 8.
The U.S. women's training camp tips off Tuesday at Duke University and will run through Sept. 7, when the squad takes on Australia, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist.
The The 15th FIBA World Championship will be played Sept. 12-23 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
In addition to Parker, Pondexter and Snow, several players who are competing in the WNBA Finals are also under consideration for the final roster spots, USA Basketball said.
The only collegiate player vying for a spot on the squad, Parker has been on two previous USA Basketball teams, winning a gold medal at the 2004 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and assisting the 2006 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team to a 4-1 record at the 2006 Opals World Challenge in Australia last April.
During the 2005-06 season at Tennessee as a redshirt freshman, Parker guided the Lady Vols to the SEC tournament crown and the Elite Eight. She started all 36 games and led Tennessee in scoring (17.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg) en route to Kodak All-American accolades, an honor only nine freshmen had earned prior to this year.
"I'm looking forward to this opportunity to train with some of the country's best female basketball players and learn from some of its best coaches," Parker said. "It would be an honor to represent America."
Snow, a two-time WNBA All-Star and the league's most improved player in 2003, averaged career highs with 13.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this past season in her fifth summer with the Houston Comets. While at Tennessee from 1998-2002, Snow averaged 10.9 points and 6.5 rebounds and had three career dunks.
Snow, who has competed for various USA Basketball teams since 2000, participated in the 2006 USA Basketball Senior national team's European Tour this past March, starting one of three games to average 12.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.
A member of six previous USA Basketball teams, Pondexter has won four golds at various levels of international play, including alongside Parker at the 2006 Opals World Challenge. The No. 2 selection in last April's WNBA Draft, Pondexter just wrapped up a stellar rookie campaign, finishing the 2006 season ranked fourth in the league in scoring (19.5 ppg), sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2) and 10th in free-throw percentage (.853). She was named to the 2006 WNBA All-Star Game and all-rookie team after finishing as the runner-up in rookie of the year voting.
Since the 1996 Olympic Games, the USA Basketball women's senior national team has posted five consecutive gold medals at the Olympics and FIBA World Championships with an unblemished 42-0 record. Additionally, the United States is No. 1 in the world in every age group after also claiming gold at the 2005 FIBA U19 World Championship and 2003 FIBA U21 World Championship.