The USA Basketball women’s national team is beginning its schedule of friendlies today as the players will be in the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game to face off against a group of WNBA All-Stars who did not make the team or claim other FIBA nationalities.
The Washington Mystics will be represented by Tina Charles, the league’s leading scorer and Ariel Atkins who are on Team USA. Their toughest game will likely be tonight given the talent of the WNBA as opposed to most other FIBA countries outside the Top 10.
You can watch the All-Star Game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The game will be at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay, home of the Las Vegas Aces.
The Americans will then play two more friendlies. The first is against Australia, who will have Mystics guard Leilani Mitchell on July 16 at 2:30 p.m. ET. This game is part of a doubleheader with the USA Basketball men’s national team who will play later that afternoon.
The final game is on Sunday, July 18 at 5:30 p.m. ET against Nigeria. The Nigerians are 17th in the world Unlike the men’s team, who beat the USA last weekend, the women’s team will probably provide little resistance unless they get some additional WNBA help.
That help could come in the form of Los Angeles Sparks forwards Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike and their younger sister, Erica who are Nigerian dual citizens. The Nigerians listed the three on their provisional roster, however, Nneka specifically played for the United States in the 2014 and 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cups while Chiney has played U18 and U19 basketball so they are ineligible to play for anyone else besides the USA with some exceptions. And that’s where things get interesting.
FIBA does allow a player to change nationalities if such a move can help the development of basketball for that other nation. Since FIBA Africa is the world’s weakest region and Nigeria hasn’t been a factor for an Olympic medal, my feeling is that FIBA will allow Nneka and Chiney to switch countries. Erica already decided to play for Nigeria.
Feel free to use this space to chat about the WNBA All-Star Game below, and also feel free to discuss how much of a factor Charles and Atkins will be on Team USA.