USA Basketball Explains Decision to Leave Caitlin Clark Off Team USA for Paris Olympics

USA Basketball Explains Decision to Leave Caitlin Clark Off Team USA for Paris Olympics
Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes in action during the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament National Championship game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 7, 2024. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

A top USA Basketball official said this week that Indiana Fever rookie sensation Caitlin Clark has been left off USA Basketball’s roster for the women’s Olympic team at the upcoming Paris games.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti later explained to the Associated Press that the decision was made according to established selection protocol.

“Here’s the basketball criteria that we were given as a committee. And how do we evaluate our players based on that?” Ms. Rizzotti said. “There were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes. Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach] Cheryl [Reeve], and then sometimes a vote.”

The USA women’s national team has won gold at no less than seven straight Olympic Games since 1996, and there’s no shortage of talent travelling to the next Olympics.

Ms. Rizzotti acknowledged Ms. Clark’s soaring popularity—drawing millions of new fans to the sport through her record-breaking college career with the Iowa Hawkeyes—but stated that this was not a factor in the decision-making process.

“It wasn’t the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the U.S. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl [Reeve],” she said.

“It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team.”

Twelve players will represent the United States at the Olympics: Napheesa Collier, Kahleah Copper, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Sabrina Ionescu, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Alyssa Thomas, A’ja Wilson, and Jackie Young.

According to USA Basketball, the team members have a combined 15 Olympic gold medals, 18 FIBA Women’s World Cup titles, and 55 WNBA All-Star appearances.

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes
Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes looks on during an open practice ahead of the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 4, 2024. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Ms. Clark, who joined the WNBA in April as the No. 1 draft pick, told reporters that she will be rooting for the team “to win gold.”

When asked whether she was disappointed about not being on the team, the 22-year-old smiled, but seemed unfazed.

While Ms. Clark won’t be going to Paris, Brittney Griner will be playing international basketball for the first since her release from a Russian prison in December 2022. Ms. Griner had been arrested for drug smuggling at a Russian airport near Moscow after authorities found cannabis oil in her luggage, which she claimed she had packed inadvertently. She was sentenced to nine years in prison in August, 2022. However, months of negotiations by the Biden administration eventually led to her release in a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The U.S. women’s team will play an exhibition game against Germany in London on July 23 ahead of their first game of the 2024 Paris Olympics on July 29. The team is set to face off against Japan, Belgium, and Germany in the group phase.

The Summer Olympics take place in Paris from July 26 to August 11, 2024.