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Auriemma, Taurasi and Bird go for Gold one more time. Plus notes from USA Basketball Training camp.

POSTED February 23, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

UConn star Breanna Stewart comes away with a steal during the final day of the USA Basketball National Team training camp. Stewart showed she belonged once again.

STORRS: Let’s not sugar coat any of this.

This is Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird’s USA Basketball National Team in 2016.

The magnificent duo has been in Storrs the past three days training at a place they helped create so many memories for while cultivating the championship pedigree that is UConn women’s basketball.

They are back with their coach, Geno Auriemma, looking to blow past the world in the summer Olympics come August in Rio and the fact that they were willing to come back allows all of this to happen in the first place.

Without the two stars, amongst a boatload of talent trying to fill just 12 spots, none of this may have even taken place in Connecticut.

What made Auriemma add another Olympics to his already crowded plate of trying to win a fourth consecutive National Championship?

Taurasi appears to have been the ring leader who, along with Bird get the fact that what they have had with Auriemma has been and is still something special.

“I think she knows, particular her and Sue,” Auriemma said, “I think they know that one of my reasons for wanting to do it in the first place in 2012 was obviously to be an Olympic coach which means a lot but the opportunity to coach the two of them again was pretty powerful. Then it was, ‘we are going to try and give it a shot one more time’, and they talked about doing it again.”

Would he have be at the helm had the dynamic duo not signed on for one last shot at additional gold?

“I don’t think so,” Auriemma said, “I would not be good enough as a coach to guide them through to a gold medal. I need them to help me, that’s how they good they are and that’s how smart they are and that’s how used to winning they are. So, I wouldn’t trust myself to be able to do it without them.”

Coming from a guy with 10 National Championships and Gold of his own, it speaks volumes about the respect and trust he puts in the pair.

During the three days of training, Bird and Taurasi and their coach looked like they had never separated. A big smile comes to the face of Auriemma whenever he talks of two players who he relied on during their glory days in Storrs and still does today on the biggest stage.

They are his coaches on the court, they are so comfortable with each other and what they are looking to do on the court that it comes second nature.

This will be their chance to go out and put on a show just one more time, for one more piece of hardware. All these folks know how to do is win.

Auriemma, Taurasi and Bird. Kind of flows.

….The players that were in Storrs for the past three days now scatter to their respective parts of the globe, either to rejoin teams or prepare for the upcoming WNBA season, the next time Auriemma will see them will be in late July as they prepare to leave for Rio.

Would he like more time? Of course but there is a plus side to all of this great talent.

“Here’s what I say,” Auriemma said, “I wish we had half the time the other countries have with their team. They wish that they had half of our players. So, trade one for the other.”

Bird understands the limitations of not having what appears to be enough time but also gets the process, the one that takes four years.

“It funny,” Bird said, “You look at three days and say ‘what’s three days’? Not that long but it’s on top of our training camp that we had in Spain on top of Vegas last May, on top of Turkey World Championships and so on and so forth. Its three years of building on four years of preparations with a lot of the same people. So when we do get together, even though it’s just three days and we are cramming, we do tend to pick things up quickly. We are very familiar with each other.”

….Stefanie Dolson was back in Storrs for the training camp and spoke of what life has been like while playing in Turkey, a place she was returning to on Wednesday.

“I think the biggest challenge is in the conditioning,” Dolson said, “Keeping up with my diet, keeping up with conditioning so I’m ready for these camps and the upcoming WNBA season. We do extra workouts and I have great teammates in Turkey. It’s been fun.”

Dolson will be starting her third year with the Washington Mystics in May.

….Looking up and down the roster reads like a “Who’s, who” of professional women’s basketball and the ironic thing is that most will not make the final 12 cut.

One could figure at least nine of the 12 spots are locked up with players who were on the 2012 squad, leaving just three openings.

Seimone Augustus, Bird, Tamika Catchings, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore, Taurasi, Lindsay Whalen, Tina Charles and Candace Parker are a deep and talented bunch all by themselves.

We still haven’t mentioned the reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player, one Elena Delle Donne or Brittney Griner or Jewell Loyd or Stefanie Dolson just to name a few.

Oh, yeah and that college player who didn’t look much like a college player over the past three days, Breanna Stewart who impressed her coaches and teammates with her skill set amongst the countries best.

A problem, but a nice one to have. Just ask the rest of the world.

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