With the London Olympics less than a year away, the U.S. women's basketball team will get a rare chance to train when they begin a 12-day European tour on Wednesday.
Coach Geno Auriemma won't have a very deep roster at his disposal for the trip that will take the Americans through Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
With the WNBA playoffs in the conference finals the Americans will be short-handed with only six players from the 26-person national team pool available. Swin Cash, Tina Charles, Brittney Griner, Ashja Jones, Renee Montgomery and Cappie Pondexter will be in camp.
Candice Dupree and Diana Taurasi, who were eliminated from the WNBA playoffs Sunday, will join the group later in the week. There's a small chance a few more players may join after the WNBA finals.
To bolster the roster, USA Basketball added Sophia Young and Danielle Robinson for the first few games. Young just became eligible to play for the Americans after gaining her U.S. citizenship on Sept. 2.
"This is a good opportunity to see some of the younger guys mix in with some of our veterans," Auriemma said. "For them especially, it's a great opportunity to show me what they can do against some talented international opponents. This is a big part of our Olympic preparation and it's really important for us to see different combinations on the floor and continue their development with USA Basketball."
It will be a great chance for Griner, who just began her junior year at Baylor, to play with and against some of the best players in the world.
"I am very excited and looking forward to playing internationally," the 6-foot-8 Griner said. "I know the international game is a bit different, it's a different style of play and is pretty physical. I am honored to be able to wear the USA jersey, it's very humbling."
Griner got her first chance to play with the national team in May when she attended a three-day training camp in Las Vegas. Most of the U.S. pool was there and she more than held her own.
Candace Parker originally planned to play on the European tour but will miss it as she has been rehabbing an injured knee that kept her sidelined for most of the WNBA season. Sue Bird, who has been a mainstay at most of the team's training camps, is out with a hip injury. She played the entire season for the Seattle Storm with it and is mulling offseason surgery.
This will be one of the last times the Americans will be able to get together before the Olympics, which begin next July. With most of the U.S. players playing overseas in the winter and then in the WNBA it's difficult to find training time. Potentially they might be able to get a few days together next May before the WNBA season begins. The league will have a break for the Olympics.
The Americans, who have won gold medals at the last four Olympics, earned a berth to London by winning the world championship last year.