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By Shams Charania, Joe Vardon, Mark Puleo, Ben Pickman and Chantel Jennings

Indiana Fever sensational rookie player Caitlin Clark has been left off the U.S. women’s basketball team’s 12-man roster for the upcoming Summer Olympics. The official roster was announced Tuesday by USA Basketball.

The team shows a preference for veterans, selecting A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Alyssa Thomas, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Sabrina Ionescu, Chelsea Gray and Kahleah Copper. The U.S. women have won gold at every Olympic Games since 1996, and this renowned team of all-stars appears to be the favorites in Paris.

Seven of the 12 players have experience in Olympic 5-on-5 and two more have experience in 3×3, so only three will be competing in the Olympics for the first time – Thomas, Copper and Ionescu. Select players recently began receiving their Olympic jerseys for Team USA.

Committee Chair Jen Rizzotti said The athlete that the players’ previous experiences were taken into account.

“We wanted to give (Olympic coach) Cheryl (Reeve) a team that has experience and familiarity with international competition, that is familiar with the coaching system, has leadership, versatility and depth at every position,” Rizzotti said. “The 12 we selected were the ones we felt were the best when it came down to a basketball decision.”

Taurasi, who will be 42 when the Games begin, is competing in her sixth Olympic Games, breaking an international record she held along with five other players (men and women). Her Phoenix Mercury teammate Griner has competed in two previous Olympic Games.

Stewart, a two-time WNBA MVP and two-time Finals MVP, will be competing in her third Olympic Games. At Tokyo 2021, she averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game and was named the Olympic tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Wilson, also a two-time WNBA MVP, scored 16.5 points per game in her Olympic debut in Tokyo and is off to a strong start this WNBA season, averaging 28 points and 12.3 rebounds per game.

Clark, Brionna Jones and Aliyah Boston would likely be backups if any of the 12 players can’t play, sources briefed on the discussion said. Boston, Clark’s teammate on the Fever and last year’s WNBA Rookie of the Year, is another young talent who is conspicuously absent from the roster.

Clark is coming off a historic NCAA career at Iowa, where she became the Division I’s all-time leading scorer and was twice named National Player of the Year. On Friday, she made seven 3-pointers and equaled her WNBA career high with 30 points in a win over the Washington Mystics.

In March, Clark was one of 14 players who received an invitation to the U.S. national team’s final training camp before the Summer Games. She was unable to attend because she was playing in the Final Four with Iowa, while several players who had worked for the U.S. national program attended ahead of her. The U.S. women have held regular training camps for national team prospects for years. While they are not mandatory, they go a long way in helping the selection committee decide which 12 players will represent the most dominant basketball program – men’s or women’s.

The roster was selected by the women’s basketball committee, which includes South Carolina coach and former Team USA coach Dawn Staley, three-time Olympian and LSU assistant coach Seimone Augustus, two-time Olympian and Old Dominion coach Delisha Milton-Jones, Connecticut Sun president Jennifer Rizzotti and WNBA director of league operations Bethany Donaphin.

With four members of the Las Vegas Aces, this 2024 Olympic squad is reminiscent of the 2016 Olympic squad. In 2016, a third of the team was made up of Minnesota Lynx players – Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Augustus and Sylvia Fowles – amid the franchise’s historic streak of four WNBA titles in seven seasons. In a recent episode of The athlete On the Women’s Basketball Show, Augustus pointed out that including multiple players from a single team can benefit Team USA, which doesn’t have as much time for its final 12 players to train together before the Olympics. The 2024 roster won’t be on the court together until the week before the All-Star Game in July.

Is Clark’s absence a surprise?

Her failure to make the team isn’t entirely surprising. The fact is that the U.S. women’s basketball team, which has won seven consecutive Olympic gold medals, is the strongest collection of basketball talent in the world, many of whom have played together in the WNBA or at the Olympics. Clark has never attended a senior team training camp due to her college season this cycle, which perhaps raises questions about how she would fare on the court. The roster is full of continuity — just think of the four Aces players and three Mercury players on the roster.

It’s also hard to imagine that her slow start to the WNBA season didn’t influence the decision. Although Clark has had some high points – on Friday night, for example, she became the first player in WNBA history to score 200 points and record 75 assists in her first 12 games – she also leads the WNBA with 67 turnovers – 29 more than any other player. Her 3-point shooting percentage of 32.7 percent is also lower than many expected. Still, by leaving Clark off the roster, the Olympic Committee appears to be accepting lower ratings than if Clark were on the team. — Ben Pickman, women’s basketball writer

The squad is geared towards players with professional experience

What makes Clark’s omission — and that of her Fever teammate Boston — surprising, however, is that the Olympic team is often made up of younger players who are unlikely to make major contributions in the short term but are seen as the future of the program. That’s not the case this year, as the 26-year-old Ionescu is the youngest player.

Of course, this year’s roster is loaded with talent. The 2028 Olympic squad will almost certainly be the favorite to make the 2028 Olympics, too. So even without Clark, Boston or Atlanta Dream guard Rhyne Howard this year, it’s not as if the U.S. is behind the competition. Still, the selection committee’s philosophy in assembling the roster is notable. — Pickman

Could Clark still participate?

One of the questions that remains unanswered is whether Gray will be available for the Olympics. She suffered a lower leg injury in Game 3 of the 2023 WNBA Finals and has yet to play this WNBA season. However, she has participated in the U.S. Olympic training camp in Cleveland and, if healthy, will likely be the starting lineup player. In theory, Clark could replace Gray or step in if more injuries arise before the Olympics. However, once the Games begin, even if a player is injured during competition, Clark, Jones or Boston will not be able to participate. — Pickman

Required reading

An earlier version of this story misstated whether USA Basketball would name alternates for its women’s Olympic team. Although three players are considered likely alternates in case one of the team’s 12 members is unable to play, no official alternates are expected to be publicly announced in advance.

(Photo: Stephen Gosling / NBAE via Getty Images)

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