COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - USA Basketball announced today that 15 athletes had been selected as finalists for the 2007 USA Women's Pan American Games Team following the May 17-20 USA National Team Trials that featured 45 athletes vying for a coveted roster spot. The selections were made by the USA Basketball Women's Collegiate Committee, which is chaired by Sue Donohoe, the NCAA's vice president of Division I women's basketball.
"I'm very excited about the players that have been selected," said USA and Temple University head coach Dawn Staley, an assistant on the 2007-08 USA Women's Senior National Team. "It's a very versatile group that can do a lot of things on both sides of the basketball court. It's a group that's used to playing in big basketball games and that's something we're going to have to play in during the five games down in Brazil. We're going to see some tough competition in Rio and I think the committee did a tremendous job of putting us in the best possible situation to go down there and win the gold.
"I think it's going to be a hard task to get this group down to 12. I'm glad I'm not the one that is choosing the team. Certainly all of us, Kathy (Delaney-Smith), Bill (Gibbons) and I will put our best foot forward and give everyone an equal opportunity to be a part of the 12 players that make it."
The 14 athletes still in contention for a spot on the final 12-member USA Pan Am Games Team include: Jessica Adair (George Washington / Washington, D.C.); Matee Ajavon (Rutgers / Newark, N.J.); Nicky Anosike (Tennessee / Staten Island, N.Y.); Jayne Appel (Stanford/Pleasant Hill, Calif.) Marissa Coleman (Maryland / Cheltenham, Md.); Krystal Ellis (Marquette / Racine, Wis.); Emily Fox (Minnesota / Highlands Ranch, Colo.); Amber Holt (Middle Tennessee / Duluth, Ga.); Alexis Hornbuckle (Tennessee / Charleston, W.Va.); Chardé Houston (Connecticut / San Diego, Calif.); Tasha Humphrey (Georgia / Gainesville, Ga.); Erlana Larkins (North Carolina / Riviera Beach, Fla.); Angel McCoughtry (Louisville / Baltimore, Md.); Mel Thomas (Connecticut / Cincinnati, Ohio) and Candice Wiggins (Stanford / San Diego, Calif.).
The finalists include 10 athletes who have previously competed for USA Basketball. Appel won a gold medal in aiding the 2006 USA U18 National Team to a perfect 4-0 slate at the 2006 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Larkins was a member of the 2006 USA U20 National Team that captured the gold medal in Mexico City, Mexico; in 2005 Anosike, Coleman, Larkins and Wiggins captured the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championship. Prior to the U19 Worlds those four won the 2005 International Sports Invitational gold medal. In 2004 Coleman, Houston, Larkins and Wiggins started their age group off on the right foot by sweeping the competition at the 2004 FIBA Americas U18 Championship to collect the gold medal.
Coleman got her start in a USA Basketball uniform at the 2004 USA Youth Development Festival; while Ajavon, Hornbuckle, Houston, Humphrey, Thomas and Wiggins all competed in the 2003 USA Youth Development Festival.
Nine USA Pan American Games Team finalists earned 2007 All-America honors. McCoughtry and Wiggins, both of whom were Wade Trophy finalists, were named to the Associated Press All-America second team, Humphrey and Larkins earned A.P. All-America third team honors and Ajavon, Coleman, Ellis, Hornbuckle and Houston were A.P. All- America honorable mentions. The 2007 Kodak/WBCA All-America Team featured Wiggins, while Kodak/WBCA All-America honorable mention went to Humphrey and Larkins.
The USA Pan Ams finalists will reconvene on July 6 in Washington, D.C., and the eventual 12-member squad will be named prior to the team departing for Brazil on July 16.
The Pan American Games women's basketball tournament will be held July 20-24 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and will feature eight national teams from FIBA Americas. The U.S., placed in Group B, opens preliminary play against Columbia on July 20. Facing Argentina on July 21, the USA will close the preliminary round with a contest against defending Pan American Games gold medalists Cuba on July 22. Semifinals are slated for July 23 and the gold medal will be contested July 24. Also competing in the 2007 Pan Ams women's basketball tournament are Group A nations Brazil, Canada, Jamaica and Mexico.
Assisting Staley are collegiate head coaches Kathy Delaney-Smith of Harvard University (Mass.) and Bill Gibbons of College of the Holy Cross (Mass.).