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USA Basketball explains why Caitlin Clark was left off Olympics roster

USA Basketball explains why Caitlin Clark was left off Olympics roster

USA Basketball has revealed why Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark has been left off the U.S. women's Olympic roster, which was officially released June 11.

In an interview with The Associated Press, selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti addressed Clark's exclusion from the team, noting that the committee was aware of the outside pressure to add the former Iowa Hawkeyes star.

“Here’s the basketball criteria that we were given as a committee and how do we evaluate our players based on that?” Rizzotti said. “And when you base your decision on criteria, 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.”

Rizzotti also acknowledged Clark's popularity, which was not a factor in the decision-making process.

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

The official team headed to Paris this summer includes 12 players: 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.

After news leaked that Clark would likely not make the team, the 22-year-old told reporters June 9 that she’s “excited for the girls that are on the team.”

“I know it’s the most competitive team in the world, and I know it could’ve gone either way of me being on the team, me not being on the team,” she said in a clip shared by The Athletic reporter James Boyd.

The decision on Clark was first reported by The Athletic.

Clark in April spoke about her “dream” to be on the U.S. Olympic team with NBC’s Stephanie Gosk on TODAY.

“It would mean everything,” she said of her Olympic aspirations. “That’s one of my dreams as a kid growing up. You always want to be an Olympic gold medalist. So I know how special it is to represent USA across your chest. So being able to do that on the highest level would certainly be a dream come true.”

Clark said June 9 she felt “no disappointment” having her name left off the roster.

“I think it just gives you something, something to work for. That’s a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it’s just a little more motivation. You remember that,” she said. “You know, hopefully in four years, when four years comes back around, I can be there.”

She said she'll be cheering on the Team USA players.

“I’m going to be rooting them on to win gold. I was a kid that grew up watching the Olympics, so it’ll be fun to watch them,” she said.

In May, Clark was named the WNBA's rookie of the month. However, Clark's brief time in the WNBA hasn't been without adjustment. The former college star averages more than five turnovers per game.

Clark was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft in April. Prior to her professional debut this year, Clark became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I college basketball history while playing at the University of Iowa.

Her performances on the court have drawn millions of eyes to women’s basketball.

During the NCAA Elite Eight in April, Iowa’s matchup against LSU, which saw Clark face off against Angel Reese, drew 12.3 million viewers. This marked the most viewership for a game in women’s college basketball history. FanDuel told CNBC at the time that the game was also the biggest betting event of all time in women’s sports.

ESPN reported that this past season’s Elite Eight averaged 6.2 million viewers, up 184% year-over-year.

For the first time ever, more people watched this year’s NCAA women’s championship than the men’s final, per Nielsen.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com