Caitlin Clark Left Off Star-Packed USA Basketball National Team Olympic Roster 2024

In a surprising turn of events, WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark will not be heading to Paris for the summer Olympic Games. Multiple reports, including those from the Associated Press and The Athletic, indicate that the 22-year-old star has been left off the Team USA roster. While an official announcement is still pending, the decision has already sparked significant discussion among basketball fans and analysts alike.

USA Basketball Star-Studded Roster

Despite Clark’s absence, the U.S. women’s basketball team will be formidable as ever, aiming for their eighth consecutive gold medal since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The roster includes seasoned Olympians and WNBA stars, ensuring a mix of experience and talent. Leading the team will be five-time gold medalist Diana Taurasi, who, at 42, is set to break the record for most Olympics played in basketball. Taurasi will be joined by Phoenix Mercury teammate Brittney Griner, who makes her return to international play following her detention in Russia.

Other Olympic veterans on the team include Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, and Chelsea Gray. Additionally, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, who helped secure the inaugural 3×3 gold medal at the Tokyo Games in 2021, will also be part of the squad. First-time Olympians Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu, and Kahleah Copper, who were instrumental in the U.S. team’s World Cup victory in Australia in 2022, round out the roster.

Caitlin Clark: A Rising Star

Caitlin Clark’s exclusion from the roster has raised eyebrows, given her meteoric rise and the significant impact she’s had on women’s basketball. Clark, who plays for the Indiana Fever, has been a driving force behind the increased popularity and viewership of the sport. Her impressive performances have led to sold-out arenas and a notable spike in attendance at WNBA games.

The Indiana Fever, for instance, surpassed their total home attendance from the entire 2023 season within the first five home games of 2024. League-wide, attendance has surged by 40 percent compared to the previous year, a phenomenon many attribute to the “Caitlin Clark effect.”

Caitlin Clark effect

The Decision’s Implications

Leaving a young star like Clark off the Olympic roster is not without precedent. The U.S. has included WNBA rookies in the past, such as Diana Taurasi in 2004, Candace Parker in 2008, and Breanna Stewart in 2016. However, the decision to prioritize veteran guards over Clark reflects USA Basketball’s strategy to rely on experience and proven performance in high-stakes international competition.

Michael Voepel, a prominent basketball analyst, believes Clark deserved a spot but understands the decision. “USA Basketball has the deepest talent pool, especially at guard. While Clark has shown incredible promise, the roster already includes highly experienced guards like Taurasi, Gray, Young, Plum, Ionescu, and Loyd.”

The exclusion of other talented guards, such as the Dallas Wings’ Arike Ogunbowale, who is second in WNBA scoring, further underscores the depth of talent available to Team USA. Voepel also points out that USA Basketball has historically not emphasized marketing potential when selecting its roster.

A Missed Opportunity?

Some argue that leaving Clark off the roster might be a missed opportunity for USA Basketball to capitalize on her growing popularity. Clark’s presence could have drawn more attention to the team, both domestically and internationally. With her ability to attract viewers and fill arenas, Clark could have been a key figure in elevating the profile of women’s basketball at the Olympics.

Internationally, the U.S. women’s team often plays second fiddle to their male counterparts in terms of media coverage. Clark’s inclusion could have shifted this dynamic, bringing more focus to the women’s team and its array of talent.

Looking Ahead

As the U.S. team prepares for the Olympics, they will first gather for training in Phoenix in July, followed by an exhibition game in London against Germany before heading to France. In Paris, they will face Japan, Belgium, and Germany in pool play.

While Caitlin Clark will not be part of the Olympic journey this time, her impact on the sport is undeniable. Her exclusion may give her a much-needed break after a grueling schedule since the start of the college season. Meanwhile, fans and analysts will watch closely to see how Team USA performs in Paris and whether the decision to leave Clark off the roster will be vindicated.

The storylines heading into the Olympics will undoubtedly feature the veterans and rising stars on the team, but Caitlin Clark’s absence will be a talking point throughout the games. Whether this decision proves beneficial or detrimental to Team USA’s gold medal aspirations remains to be seen.

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