An American Czech-mate
The US easily regains the gold.
by Clay Kallam
In other news, the sky is blue …
Yes, the Americans rolled to the gold medal in the 2010 World Championship for Women, barely breaking a sweat along the way, but remember, they didn’t win in 2006, and have had to work hard to win in the past. This year, though, even without Cappie Pondexter, Seimone Augustus, Candace Parker and several others who could have easily been on the 12-woman roster, it was a complete breeze.
Australia and Spain, the two teams expected to give the US the most trouble, proved to be less-than-formidable opponents, and in fact the Aussies were stunned by Belarus in the medal round and wound up fifth. Spain might have been better had American Sancho Lyttle, who found a way to become Spanish this summer, not been hurt – but it’s unlikely Lyttle would have been enough to overcome the huge talent and depth advantage of the Americans.
Credit, though, must also go to Geno Auriemma, who coaxed a tremendous defensive effort out of a group of superstars who usually treat hard work on defense as something slightly more offensive than bad breath. Of course it helped that Auriemma was dealing with several of his own players who were already conditioned to ask “How high?” on the way up after he said “Jump.”
Speaking of UConn players, Maya Moore was not quite the goddess many had expected – and in fact is no longer the automatic, no-brainer first pick in the WNBA Draft next spring. The light suddenly turned on for Australia’s 6-8 Liz Cambage, and the 19-year-old looked like a legit WNBA post right now, with a bright, bright future (tall players generally take longer to reach their potential, Rebecca Lobo notwithstanding).
Moore was hardly awful, though, averaging 8.7 ppg and shooting 43.7 percent, but she also didn’t look like an immediate WNBA All-Star. She is, of course, still by far the best college senior, and unless Minnesota gets the first pick in the lottery, she’s an automatic first choice (the Lynx are swimming in talented wings), though it does seem a bit cruel to have her go from the brilliant coaching of Auriemma to the clueless meandering of Nolan Richardson in Tulsa. Still, she’ll be cashing big checks in Europe, but so will Cambage, who will also make the team that gets the second pick very happy as well.
Hana Horachova is also getting mentioned as a possible WNBA player, but don’t hold your breath. Sure, she was the World Championship MVP, but that’s because a) the Czechs overachieved; b) there was no outstanding US player; and c) the assembled media was heavily weighted toward Europeans, and they’re the ones who voted. More important for a possible WNBA future, Horachova shot just 29.6 percent from three-point distance and showed a huge reliance on her right hand, which might not play all that well in the defense-minded WNBA.
And since teammate Jana Vesela, one of the best in Europe, was only a rotation player in Seattle, why would Horachova miss some key FIBA competitions and spend the summer in a garden spot like Uncasville for a $40,000 rookie contract? No, basking in the glow of the silver medal will be a lot more pleasant than being harassed into submission by some superathletic defender who had no shot at making the US National Team, so Horahcova, along with Vesela, isn’t going to upset the balance of trade.
For the Americans, it’s no surprise that Diana Taurasi was all-tournament, especially since she shot 50 percent from three-point distance and 90 percent from the free-throw line. Of course, Candice Dupree made a phenomenal 75 percent of her shots, and led the Americans in rebounding with 6.0 a game (much better than Sylvia Fowles’ 4.3 rpg), and could have been chosen instead of Taurasi, or any number of Euros who made the team.
In truth, any of the top nine Americans could have easily been chosen (Taurasi, Dupree, Fowles, Sue Bird, Angel McCoughtry, Tina Charles, Tamika Catchings, Swin Cash and Asjha Jones) as it’s likely that the bottom five of the US roster could have won the gold medal.
In fact, some observers feel that even if none of this group were in the Czech Republic, America’s next 12 would have won it all, though it would have been a struggle. All this doesn’t bode well for a competitive 2012 Olympics, especially with Brittney Griner, Parker, Pondexter and Augustus all expected to try out for the team.
So yes, look for more American blue sky in London – and yet another predictable outcome.