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USA Basketball defends decision to leave Caitlin Clark off the 2024 Paris Olympics team

New York Liberty face Indiana Fever, Caitlin Clark in front of sold-out crowd at Barclays Center
New York Liberty face Indiana Fever, Caitlin Clark in front of sold-out crowd at Barclays Center 01:48

Fans were disappointed earlier this week when Caitlin Clark, the first round overall draft pick for the WNBA, was not on the U.S. women's basketball team roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Now, USA Basketball has responded.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti told the Associated Press it all comes down to the criteria for choosing players. Experience was a factor.

"And when you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes," Rizzotti said. "Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for Cheryl [Reeve] and then sometimes a vote."

Clark, credited with drawing millions of new viewers to both women's college and professional basketball games this year, said making the Olympic team is a dream and that she now has something to work toward. 

"Hopefully one day I can be there," she told reporters after practice on Sunday. "I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

She said she wasn't disappointed and is excited for the women who made the team. 

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever handles the ball against Karlie Samuelson #44 of the Washington Mystics at Capital One Arena on June 7, 2024 in Washington, DC.  G Fiume/Getty Images

The team is a mix of players with individual skill sets, USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley told the AP. 

"We have veterans, newcomers and those in the middle," he said. "Good perspective and continuity is such an important thing and is why we've been successful in the Olympics."

The Team USA women's basketball team has won gold at every single Olympics since 1988, except for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when they took home Bronze. 

The six-person selection committee formed a team of players who have already won either an Olympic or World Cup gold medal, according to USA Basketball.

Diana Taurasi, who played in her first Olympics 20 years ago in Athens, returns for her sixth consecutive Olympic Games. Her Phoenix Mercury teammates Brittney Griner and Kahleah Copper join her on Team USA.

Breanna Stewart, Napheesa Collier, Chelsea Gray, Jewell Loyd and A'ja Wilson, who have all played in past Olympics, also made the team. Sabrina Ionescu, Kelsey Plum, Alyssa Thomas and Jackie Young who have all earned Olympic gold or World Cup gold medals for 3x3 games were also selected. Plum and Young will play on the 5x5 team.

Players like Clark and Ariel Atkins, who played at the Tokyo Olympics, and 2022 World Cup team members Shakira Austin, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton and Brionna Jones, could be taken to the Paris Olympics as alternates, according to the AP. 

Still, fans were shocked when Clark — who is the all-time NCAA Division I scoring leader and is one of two players in WNBA history to have 150 points, 50 rebounds and 50 assists in their first 10 games — was left off the roster.

"Leaving Catlin Clark of the Woman's USA @Olympics Team has to be one of the all-time misses in sports history," one person wrote on social media.

"Caitlin Clark not playing with the Olympic team is going to lose them millions and millions of dollars. Wild. Her international publicity would be outrageous numbers. Very surprising they left her out," wrote another.

"I don't follow the WNBA nor do I know any of their names - EXCEPT Catlin Clark. The WNBA missed out on eyes viewing the basketball Olympic Games," another person posted.

Some social media users, however, pointed out that no WNBA rookies were selected. Clark also did not attend Olympic training camp – which improves players' chances of making the roster – because she was playing in the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship, CBS Sports reports.

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