U.S. women's basketball team refamiliarizing itself

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Sports,Craig Stouffer

Game vs. Brazil comes just two days after reuniting

While the U.S. men's basketball team has been training together for a week, its female counterparts barely will have had two days before both squads face Brazil in Monday's doubleheader at Verizon Center.

Such is the life of the world's dominant women's basketball team, one that has won four consecutive gold medals and 33 straight games at the Olympics.

The women are still a product of the landscape, which requires the best players in the world to play virtually year-round in Europe, the WNBA or wherever the money takes them. Team USA is an afterthought -- except for the part where if they don't just win but win in convincing and dominating fashion, they've failed to live up to expectations.

"That just makes women better, right?" forward Candace Parker said. "I think it's just schedule-wise we have no choice. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to play in the Olympics, or we wouldn't be able to play in the WNBA. None of us want that."

U.S. coach Geno Auriemma's last work with the national team came in May. Parker and U.S. teammate Tamika Catchings were foes on Thursday in the WNBA, which didn't halt for its Olympic break until Friday. Fortunately, Auriemma has a half-dozen of his former standouts from Connecticut on the roster, including reigning WNBA rookie of the year Maya Moore, to make the transition easier.

"If I say, 'Look, it doesn't matter what happens Monday; we're just trying to put our team together,' and then Brazil beats our [behinds], and everybody goes, 'Man, this Olympic team stinks,'?" Auriemma said. "So you can't say, 'Well, it doesn't matter what happens Monday.' Monday we've got to win so we get used to winning right away. But at the same time, we've got to find out some things about what kind of team are we going to have. What kind of personality is this team going to have? What's our identity going to be?"

Team USA goes from the District to Manchester, England, for three days, playing Britain on July 18. It then goes to Istanbul for two final exhibition games and two more days of practice. The Americans open their gold medal defense against Croatia on July 28.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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