VALENCIA (London Olympics) – Geno Auriemma has the honor of leading the USA women’s team and he does it with the same kind of enthusiasm he shows with his University of Connecticut sides.
The legendary coach would rather be nowhere else, it seems, than on the court working with many of the best players in the world.
That’s the case even when some of his more high-profile stars like reigning world and Olympic champions Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles can’t be with United States on their current tour in Europe.
The Americans just spent several days in Italy and are now in Valencia, Spain.
What coach would not want to have an opportunity to get to know, and work out with, a player like Brittney Griner, a rising junior at Baylor University who could very well end up adding her name to a long list of Americans that have dominated the international game.
As a freshman at Baylor, she blocked a record 223 shots.
In a single game against Georgetown that season, she had 14 swats!
As a sophomore, Griner averaged 23 points and almost eight rebounds per game.
Griner only turns 21 on October 18 but seems to have as good a chance as any newcomer of making the USA Olympic team.
Auriemma said to FIBA.com in Valencia on Tuesday afternoon: “What makes Brittney different is just, you can't say, ‘Well, you know, if we don't take Brittney, we'll take that kid.'
“Well, who's that kid?
“And, does that kid look like her? No.
“Is that kid 6-8 (6ft 8in)? No.
“Can that kid do what she does? No.
“So, all of a sudden, you look at it and say, 'Jeez. She's going to be seriously in the mix there.
“I know we have a player selection committee but, (laughs) I think I'm going to be on that phone call.”
Auriemma can hardly wait for London.
His team qualified by winning the FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic last year.
Along the way, Auriemma was able to coach against Australia center Liz Cambage.
“I think as you look forward to the next generation of players, someone like Liz, someone like Tina Charles, Brittney Griner - they're going to be the next wave of great players,” Auriemma said.
“It will be interesting to see how that match-up goes and not just next year at the Olympics, but going forward.
“When you think about the Olympics maybe with Brittney Griner, Tina Charles, Liz Cambage, Maria Stepanova, you're talking about some of the best and biggest centers in the world.
“As good as the Czech Republic was, I think London is going to be, 'Wow, even more of a challenge.’
Auriemma says the selection process needs to take its course, though.
Imagine how tough it is to crack the USA squad.
Auriemma has a great many players, including Maya Moore, who will play in Spain this season with Ros Casares, the EuroLeague Women outfit the USA will meet on Wednesday night.
Moore is right now with the Minnesota Lynx playing in the WNBA Finals.
“I think it's too early for everybody,” Auriemma said, when asked about the squad selection.
“There are some players there that you think, 'Well, jeez - how could they not make the team?
“As I said, I think we have to evaluate some of these kids.”
Don’t be surprised if Griner is with the Americans, though, when they run onto the court in London.