U.S. women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma should feel right at home with the addition of four current or former UConn players to the national team training camp next week at American University in Washington, D.C.
Swin Cash of the Seattle Storm, Ashja Jones, Maya Moore, and Tina Charles were among the 14 players added to the training camp roster Tuesday by USA Basketball. They join former UConn players Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, giving the camp a distinctive Huskies flavor.
"The players who have been invited, that have accepted an invitation and are going to be there, gives us an opportunity to see the best players in the world compete against each other," Auriemma said. "Not necessarily just to impress me or to try to make the team, but more importantly, the fact that they're going to be there, that they want to be there, shows that they have a tremendous love for USA Basketball.
Joining the UConn contingent are Jayne Appel, Alana Beard, Shameka Christon, Candice Dupree, Lindsey Harding, Ebony Hoffman, Crystal Langhorne, Angel McCoughtry, Lindsay Whalen and Candice Wiggins.
The 14 USA national team hopefuls include 12 who have previously aided American teams to gold medals. Beard, Cash, Jones, Harding, Whalen and Wiggins were members of the 2007-08 national team pool but did not compete in the Beijing Olympics.
"This new group of player has spent quite a bit of time with us," USA Basketball national team director Carol Callan said. "We asked them to come to the training camp and, after the training camp is over, the player selection committee will meet again to add players to the national team pool."
The 14 invitees join eight players picked for the national pool last month. While Bird, Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, Cappie Pondexter, Seimone Augustus and Kara Lawson are guaranteed a spot in the national pool that will help choose the 2010 World Championship team and the 2012 Olympics team, the new players aren't necessarily in the pool.
"They aren't guaranteed to make a team," Callan said. "The training camps will feel like a tryout. With such limited training time because of commitments to play overseas, we need to prepare."
Augustus, Appel, Whalen and Lawson will be at the camp, but won't participate because of injuries. The camp also could be missing a few players to the WNBA finals - Catchings, Taurasi, and Pondexter are competing in the playoffs.
"Kicking off the brand new quad, new coaching staff, all things being even, it's important just because you're injured you're not included in our mental thoughts," Callan said. "We're kicking it off in a big way we wanted them to feel included. They just won't be able to be on the floor and play."
The U.S. team will train in Washington for a week before heading to Russia to play in a tournament.