By Barry Janoff
April 2, 2012: In 1992, the U.S. sent to Barcelona what may have been the ultimate "Dream Team" in basketball history. Led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen, the squad won a gold medal in such convincing fashion that in 2010 the team was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 2012, the U.S. has compiled another hoops dream team, which will head to London for the Summer Games seeking America's sixth consecutive women's basketball Olympic gold medal. The United States earned its berth by virtue of earning the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
USA Basketball filled 11 of the 12 roster spots with top players from the WNBA, who will play under the auspices of head coach Geno Auriemma from the University of Connecticut.
Named to their third Olympic team were Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), each of whom won gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.
Competing in their second Olympics are Swin Cash (Chicago Sky, who won a gold medal in Athens in 2004); Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks), who all won gold medals in Beijing in 2008).
Competing in their first Olympics are Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx).
The 12th member of the roster is anticipated to be center Brittney Griner from Baylor University, which is playing Notre Dame on April 3 for the NCAA Division ! Women's national championship.
“The selection process was not an easy task," Jim Tooley, USA Basketball executive director/CEO, said in a statement. "There were a number of athletes in consideration for a spot on the Olympic team, and it was difficult to pare the team down from the 21 finalists. We believe we have assembled a solid core group that will help continue USA Basketball’s string of gold medals."
USA Basketball partners include Nike, State Farm, Gatorade, American Express, Tiffany, Dr Pepper/Snapple and MetroPCS.
According to Auriemma, who has been head coach of the U.S. Women's National Team since 2009, “I think anytime you’re choosing a team made up of the best players, not only the best players in the country, they’re some of the best players in the world, it’s very difficult to come to a team of 12.
"We believe we have assembled a solid core group that will help continue USA Basketball’s string of gold medals."
“Anytime you coach USA Basketball, there’s inherent pressure,” Auriemma continued. “Pressure on you as a coach to make sure you do a great job with your team, make sure you’re prepared and that the players are ready for whatever comes your way and we’re committed to one goal as a team . . . winning."
Seven countries have claimed spots in the eventual 12-nation field: host country Great Britain, the United States, Angola (FIBA Africa), Australia (FIBA Oceania), Brazil (FIBA Americas), China (FIBA Asia) and Russia (FIBA Europe).
The final five teams will earn their spots at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (June 25 - July 1 in Ankara, Turkey), which will feature 12 nations from each of the five 2011 FIBA zone qualifying tournaments.