Longtime Teammates: Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie, soon-to-be three-time Olympians, competed for USA Basketball on 14 different teams together since 1989, joke that they don’t travel out of the country without each other.
Students: Lisa Leslie and Dawn Staley are working towards their MBA; Katie Smith is taking classes to prepare her for dental school at The Ohio State University
Mothers: Sheryl Swopes, w ho will be competing in her third Olympic Games, has custody of her young son, Jordan Eric Jackson (June 25, 1997). 2000 Olympic gold medalist and 2004 team hopeful Yolanda Griffith is a single mother of a teenage daughter, Candace.
The Juggler: Dawn Staley and her many hats: USA Senior National Team player, WNBA Charlotte Sting player, Temple University women’s basketball team head coach (has taken Temple to the NCAA Tournament twice in the last four years, was named 2004 Atlantic 10 Conference Coach of the Year), MBA student, community icon in Philadelphia in helping kids through her foundation
Overcoming A Handicap: Tamika Catchings has overcome hearing loss to become a four-time All-American in college and the 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year. She was honored during her junior season at the University of Tennessee with the Reynolds Society Achievement Award by the world‑famous Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston . The annual award is presented to distinguished individual who has overcome hearing, vision or voice loss, and provided inspiration to others.
In the Community: All of the USA core members are active in their community, conducting clinics, giving motivational speeches and helping underprivileged children, but Tamika Catchings and Dawn Staley rise a little above the rest. Catchings, who was born with hearing loss, has conducted clinics and spoken to hearing-impaired basketball players at Galluadet University (D.C.) and at the YMCA in Boston .
Involved heavily in her community in Indianapolis , she has hosted ‘Catch The Fever,’ a huge holiday basketball camp which involved close to 100 kids as well as a ‘Catch the Fitness’ clinic the past two years and has hopes of continuing both as annual affairs. She was called upon by President Bush to attend his 2004 State of the Union speech as a representative of all 2004 Olympians and Olympic hopefuls. Three times honored by the WNBA for her work, Catchings receiving the August 2002, August 2003 and 2002‑03 Off‑Season WNBA Community Assist awards. In addition to hosting camps and clinics and raising money to enable disadvantaged youths to attend basketball camps, Catchings in the 2003 WNBA season purchased a block of tickets for local children to attend a Fever game and sit in the ‘Catchings Corner.’
The recipient of the 1998 American Red Cross Spectrum Award, which celebrates women who have made outstanding contributions to their communities, Staley has been honored on numerous occasions for her work with inner‑city Philadelphia children through the foundation that bears her name. The Dawn Staley Foundation hosts an after school program, which includes a half and half mix of homework and tutoring, combined with athletics at the Hank Gathers Recreation Center in Philly. A product of Philly’s inner-city herself, Staley earned the 1999 WNBA Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for her foundation work.
The Unsung Hero: Shannon Johnson, a native of Hartsville , S.C. , is truly one of the unsung heroes on the 2004 team. Johnson was selected as an alternate on the 2000 U.S. Olympic and 1998 USA World Championship teams, continued to work hard at improving her game both at home and in Europe , and was finally selected to the 2002 USA World Championship squad.
She made the most of her appointment, averaging a team fourth best 9.1 ppg. During the medal round, Johnson upped that to an amazing 16.0 ppg en route to helping the U.S. capture the gold medal. For her efforts, Johnson not only got the nod for the ‘04 USA Senior National Team, the international media voted her, along with teammate Lisa Leslie, to the five‑member 2002 All‑FIBA World Championship Team. ‘Pee Wee’ will not only play significant minutes in Athens , she’ll vie for a starting position with two-time Olympic and two-time World Championship gold medalist Dawn Staley.
Reunited: Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson went to the same high school (Morningside in Los Angeles ), but did not compete together (Thompson attended a different school as a freshman). Played one year at the University of Southern California (1993-94) together when Leslie was a senior and Thompson a freshman.
NBA Fathers: Tamika Catchings is the daughter of Harvey Catchings, who played 11 years in the NBA; Cheryl Ford’s father is two-time Olympic gold medalist Karl Malone of the Los Angeles Lakers; Natalie Williams’ father also competed in the NBA.
Overcoming Injury: Sue Bird tore the ACL in her left knee as a freshman at the University of Connecticut, but went on to capture a pair of NCAA titles (2000, 2002), and was three times named the Nancy Lieberman-Cline Point Guard of the Year.
Tamika Catchings tore the ACL in her right knee, which cut short her senior season at the University of Tennessee and sat out the 2001 WNBA season, but went on to earn WNBA Rookie of the Year honors in 2002.
DeLisha Milton-Jones suffered a torn ACL in her right knee on Feb. 22, 2004 , and missed the USA Senior National Team’s Spring Training, but has been cleared to play by the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2004 WNBA season. Sheryl Swoopes tore the lateral meniscus in her left knee in April 2001 and sat out the 2001 WNBA season, but came back to average a league third best 18.5 ppg in 2002 and was named 2002 WNBA MVP and Most Valuable Player.
Past Olympians: Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes were members of the historic 1995-96 USA Basketball Women’s National Team that rolled up a 60‑0 record, captured the 1996 Olympic gold medal, and was named the 1996 USA Basketball and U.S. Olympic Committee Team of the Year. They returned in 2000, along with Katie Smith and 2004 hopefuls Yolanda Griffith and Natalie Williams, and defended the USA ’s gold medal with an unblemished 8-0 record in Sydney . USA assistant coach Anne Donovan is a three-time U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team member. Named to the 1980 Olympic squad that did not compete in the Moscow Olympics, Donovan returned in 1984 and 1988 to help the United States capture its first and second Olympic gold medals in women’s Olympic basketball history.
Elite Olympic Club: Once the team is officially named, Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes, who were on the 1996 and 2000 gold medal winning squads, will join an elite club of athletes who have been named to three or more Olympic teams. Five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards (1984-2000), the most decorated Olympic basketball player in the world, male or female, with four golds and a bronze, heads the list that also includes 2004 assistant coach Anne Donovan (1980, 1984, 1988) and Katrina McClain (1988, 1992, 1996).
USA ’s Recent International No. 1 Streak: After claiming gold at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, the USA finished with bronze in 1992 and at the 1994 World Championship. However, the USA is back on track with a 34-0 in the last four major international competitions (1996 & 2000 Olympics, 1998 & 2002 World Championship). Ranked No. 1 in the world since 1996, other nations are aiming at the bull’s-eye on the USA ’s back.
Internationally Experienced: Because the WNBA season runs during the summer months, many players are able to head overseas to hone their skills further in international professional leagues, which was at one time the only option available for U.S. athletes beyond college. Of the nine USA Senior National Team core members, seven have competed professionally in Europe or South Korea , including Tamika Catchings ( South Korea ), Shannon Johnson ( Spain , Russia , Turkey ), Lisa Leslie ( Italy ), DeLisha Milton-Jones ( Russia ), Katie Smith ( Poland ), Dawn Staley ( Brazil , France , Italy , Spain ) and Sheryl Swoopes ( Italy ). Additionally, nearly all the hopefuls have made a named for themselves in international professional leagues.
Just A Country Boy: USA head coach Van Chancellor came from humble roots in rural Mississippi , coached high school girls basketball before spending 19 years (1978-79 through 1996-97) as the head women’s coach at the University of Mississippi .
The all-time winningest coach at Ole Miss, Chancellor then stepped onto the professional stage as the head coach of the WNBA Houston Comets and led the Comets to four WNBA titles. Named the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team head coach after leading the USA World Championship Team to the gold medal in China , Chancellor is still amazed to this day that a small town boy from Mississippi could grow up and one day be an Olympic coach.
Still speaking with an unshakable Southern twang, Chancellor lights up young fans’ eyes as he passes out candy to children in the crowds from China to Cuba to the Czech Republic and has been an incredible ambassador for USA Basketball, both on and off the court, during his tenure as a USA Senior National Team head coach.
Habla Espanol? USA core member Shannon Johnson and team hopeful Diana Taurasi both speak Spanish quite well. However, they came to know their second language through two completely different paths. Johnson, who played two seasons for the professional team Ros Casares in Valencia , Spain , sharpened her Spanish skills in order to be more self-sufficient and be a better team player. Taurasi, whose mother hails from Argentina