Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins and center Shakira Austin participated in the USA Basketball women’s national team’s training camp last week in preparation for the FIBA Women’s World Cup in Australia. The camp was held in Las Vegas and included a scrimmage on Sept. 9 when Team Red defeated Team White, 72-59 at the Cox Pavilion. In the game, Austin scored 8 points and grabbed 5 rebound for Team Red, while Atkins scored 11 points for Team White.
There are several American players who are not in training camp because they are playing for the Connecticut Sun or the Las Vegas Aces, who are in the WNBA Finals. Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young play for Las Vegas. Brionna Jones and Alyssa Thomas play for Connecticut.
When the final 12-player pool is selected, it’s likely that Atkins will make the World Cup roster because she was on the Olympic team last year that won the Gold Medal. Atkins, who is coming off a WNBA All-Defensive first team selection this season, could even be one of the team’s starters and assigned to an opponent’s top perimeter threat.
Austin, who is coming off an All-WNBA Rookie team selection this season, is probably there to be a training camp body during the Finals. I don’t see her making the team with some combination of Wilson, Jones and Thomas coming in after the Finals end. That said, Austin has a bright future ahead and opportunities to play for the national team may come sooner than one might think.
Mystics head coach Mike Thibault is an assistant for Team USA.
The FIBA Women’s World Cup starts on Sept. 22 when the Americans play the Belgium women’s national team.