Griner, Vandersloot step in US basketball pool
Baylor phenom Brittney Griner and Chicago Sky rookie Courtney Vandersloot were added to the U.S. women's basketball national pool Monday.
Both players participated in the national team training camp this May in Las Vegas and impressed the coaching staff and selection committee.
''Brittney and Courtney fit right in with the rest of the team during our last training camp,'' U.S. national coach Geno Auriemma said. ''They proved at that training camp that they deserved to be there and I'm glad that the committee has added them.''
The 6-foot-8 Griner is the only college player in the 26-player pool from which the 2012 Olympic team will be selected. She had another outstanding season at Baylor, leading the Lady Bears to the NCAA tournament regional finals.
At the camp in May, it took her a day to get comfortable as it was her first time playing with the pros. Once she got going she was tough to stop on both ends of the court. The junior was excited at the chance to potentially wear the U.S. jersey next year in London.
''It's something I always wanted to do and be a part of growing up,'' Griner said. ''Now to have a shot at playing on the Olympic team it was the best feeling I ever had.''
Griner had been invited the year before to train with the national team, but turned down the opportunity. It was a choice she doesn't regret as she knows she wasn't ready.
The U.S. is extremely deep, young, and talented at the post position with Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker and Tina Charles. Yet it wouldn't be a surprise to see Griner in the mix for the 2012 Olympics in London. There wouldn't be any pressure on her to produce and she would gain valuable international experience.
''That's probably a great scenario,'' Auriemma said at the camp in May. ''That's the scenario that a lot of the other people went through. She's still young, still inexperienced, but if she were to make the team it would certainly be an unbelievable experience for her. A scenario that helps her grow so she wouldn't be thrown into a situation that was overwhelming for her. That's an ideal scenario for her. Time will tell.''
Vandersloot is having a strong rookie season with the Sky. The Gonzaga graduate is averaging 8.5 points and 4.4 assists - seventh best in the league. She guided the Zags to an impressive run in the NCAA tournament as they made it to the regional finals before falling to Stanford.
''It's an incredible honor to be selected and I am excited about the opportunity to compete for the chance to represent my country,'' Vandersloot told The Associated Press in an email.
If Vandersloot makes the team next year she would back up veteran Sue Bird.
The U.S. has already qualified for the Olympics by winning the world championship last year. The Americans will most likely train again in October once the WNBA season ends and then again next spring. It's always difficult for the team to find training time with player commitments to play overseas in the winter.