NEW YORK -- Nearly four months after giving birth, Lisa
Leslie is back on the court, joining the U.S. women's national team
for its eight-team college tour that begins Wednesday night against
Leslie, who gave birth to Lauren Jolie Lockwood on June 25, sat
out the WNBA season while she was pregnant.
"I have been looking forward to getting Lisa back in the
program for a long time now," said U.S. coach Anne Donovan.
"Lisa's leadership, experience and her voice is something that we
really need to play with again. For our younger players in
particular, to have that opportunity to be with her, interact with
her and learn from her, as well as to show Lisa all the development
that we've done in her absence, its an exciting time for us."
The WNBA MVP in 2006, Leslie won gold medals with the U.S. team
in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympics.
"I am excited to get back on the court," Leslie said. "I feel
I have a long way to go to get ready for the Olympics, but this
will give me a chance to get moving in that direction."
She stopped by the opening day of the U.S. select team training
camp in early September and gave the players a pep talk.
"I told them that they have to be selfless when playing for the
national team," Leslie said. "Points, rebounds, assists don't
matter. It's about one goal, bringing home the gold medal."
Leslie will be joined on the team by Seimone Augustus, Sue Bird,
Kara Braxton, Swin Cash, Katie Feenstra, Kara Lawson, Taj
McWilliams-Franklin, Loree Moore and Diana Taurasi.
Augustus, Bird, Lawson and Taurasi were all part of the team
that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas tournament in Chile
and qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"Adding Lisa to that mix and getting them the experience of
working together, I think we take the next step in the development
of our National Team program working towards Beijing," Donovan
Team USA tips off the college tour on the East Coast with a Halloween game against the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., on Wednesday. UConn then hosts the national team on Friday before defending NCAA champion Tennessee hosts Team USA on Sunday. Baylor (Nov. 6), Arizona State (Nov. 8), Texas A&M (Nov. 11), USC (Nov. 13) and Stanford (Nov. 15) also host the national team during the tour.
The game against USC will be a homecoming for Leslie, who led
the Trojans to four NCAA tournaments and has played her entire WNBA
career with the Los Angeles Sparks.