'Create the best team we could.' USA Basketball explains team selection, Caitlin Clark omission

INDIANAPOLIS — USA Basketball officially released its women's basketball roster for the 2024 Paris Games on Tuesday, with hopes to clinch an eighth-straight gold medal.

Fever rookie Caitlin Clark wasn't on it, officially. Connecticut Sun team president and committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti told the Associated Press it was mainly because of Clark's inexperience in the international game.

The USA Basketball Selection Committee, which was comprised of Rizzotti, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, Atlanta Dream general manager Dan Padover, WNBA head of league operations Bethany Donaphin, and former Olympic gold medalists Seimone Augustus and DeLisha Milton-Jones, uses 11 criteria to pick the Olympic team, coached by Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve.

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Those criteria include: U.S. citizenship, availability, position played, playing ability, versatility to play other positions, coachability, attitude, adaptability to team concept, leadership, adaptability to international game and likelihood of contributing to success of team.

"Here's the basketball criteria that we were given as a committee, and how do we evaluate our players based on that?" Rizzotti said in an interview with the AP. "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 Reeve) and then sometimes a vote."

A lot of players on the Olympic roster have already worked with Reeve, including at the World Cup two years ago. Reeve told USA TODAY columnist Nancy Armour she's "never been in the trenches" with Clark, which would have made it difficult to integrate the rookie into the Olympic team.

One criteria missing from that list: marketability/popularity. While Clark is the most popular player in the WNBA right now (fans were chanting "We want Caitlin!" in an opposing arena in Connecticut on Monday night), Rizzotti said the selection committee didn't take that into account.

"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 told the AP. "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."

While there have been rookies on the Olympic team before — Rebecca Lobo in 1996, Diana Taurasi in 2004, Breanna Stewart in 2016 — all of them also went through a Senior National Team training camp ahead of being selection. Clark could not participate in those camps because of her commitment to her college team through the national championship game.

There are seven guards on the Olympic roster, and all of them have either Olympic or World Cup experience. The only player that hasn't played in the Olympics in some form (5x5 or 3x3) is New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, and she was on the 2022 World Cup team. Ionescu is also the youngest player on the Olympic roster at 26.

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Clark, 22, won't be an Olympian in 2024, but she'll have another chance in four years to make the world's most competitive team in 2028, when the games take place in Los Angeles.

"She's certainly going to continue to get better and better," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley told the AP. "Really hope that she's a big part of our future going forward."

Follow IndyStar Fever Insider Chloe Peterson on X at @chloepeterson67.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: USA Basketball explains why it didn't pick Caitlin Clark for Olympics