Caitlin Clark likely to be left out of Olympic women’s basketball team: sources

An earlier version of this story misstated whether USA Basketball would name alternate players for its women’s Olympic team. Although three players are considered potential replacements in case one of the team’s 12 players cannot play, no official alternate players are expected to be publicly revealed ahead of time.

By Shams Charania, Joe Worden, Mark Puleo, Ben Pickman, and Chantal Jennings

Indiana Fever sensation Caitlin Clark could be left off the 12-player Team USA women’s basketball roster for the upcoming Summer Olympics, according to sources aware of the decision.

The roster prioritizes experienced players with the selections of A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Alyssa Thomas, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Sabrina Ionescu, Chelsea Gray and Kahleh Copper, sources said. The U.S. women have won gold at every Olympics since 1996, and this prestigious roster of all-stars is positioned to be the favorites in Paris.

Seven of the 12 players have Olympic five-on-five experience and two more have 3×3 experience, so only three will be first-time Olympians — Thomas, Copper and Ionescu. Selected players recently began receiving Team USA Olympic jerseys.

Taurasi, who will be 42 when the Games begin, will compete in her sixth Olympics, tying the all-time international record she holds with five other players, men and women. Her Phoenix Mercury teammate Griner has previously competed in two Olympics.

Stewart, a two-time WNBA MVP and two-time Finals MVP, will compete in her third Olympics. In Tokyo in 2021, she averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game and was named the most valuable player of the Olympic tournament.

Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, scored 16.5 points per game in her Olympic debut in Tokyo and is off to a stellar start this WNBA season, averaging 28 points and 12.3 rebounds per game.

Sources said Clark, Brionna Jones and Aliyah Boston could be included as alternates if any of the 12 can’t play. Clark’s Fever teammate and last year’s WNBA Rookie of the Year Boston is another young talent left off the roster.

Clark is coming off a historic NCAA career at Iowa, where she became Division I’s all-time leading scorer and twice won national player of the year awards. On Friday, she hit seven 3-pointers and tied her WNBA career high with 30 points in a win over the Washington Mystics.

In March, Clark was one of 14 players invited to the U.S. national team’s final training camp before the Summer Games. She was unable to attend because she was playing with Iowa in the Final Four, while several players who had served the U.S. national program for years before her did attend. The U.S. women’s team has held periodic training camps for national team hopefuls over the years. While not mandatory, they do help the selection committee greatly in deciding which 12 will represent the most impressive basketball program — men’s or women’s.

The roster was selected by the Women’s Basketball Committee, which includes South Carolina coach and former Team USA coach Dawn Staley, three-time Olympian and LSU assistant Seimone Augustus, two-time Olympian and Old Dominion coach DeLisha Milton-Jones, Connecticut Sun president Jennifer Rizzotti and WNBA head of league operations Bethany Donaphin.

With four members of the Las Vegas Aces, this 2024 Olympic roster is reminiscent of the 2016 Olympic roster. In 2016, a third of the team was made up of Minnesota Lynx players — Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Augustus and Sylvia Fowles — amid the franchise’s historic run of four WNBA titles in seven seasons. In a recent episode Athletic On the Women’s Basketball Show, Augustus explained that including multiple players from the same team could benefit Team USA, which doesn’t have as much time for its final 12 players to train together before the Olympics. The 2024 team won’t actually take the field together until a week before July’s All-Star Game.

Is Clarke’s absence a surprise?

It’s not entirely surprising that she didn’t join the team. The reality is that the U.S. women’s basketball team, which has won seven consecutive Olympic gold medals, is the strongest group of basketball talent in the world. Many of them have played together in WNBA or Olympic cycles. Clark, because of her college season, never attended a senior national team camp this cycle, perhaps leading to some questions about how she would fit in on the court. The roster is full of continuity – the roster includes four Aces players and three Mercury players.

It’s also hard to imagine that her slow start to the WNBA season didn’t influence this decision. Although Clark has experienced some highs — for example, on Friday night, she became the first player in WNBA history with 200 points and 75 assists in her first 12 games — she also leads the WNBA with 67 turnovers — 29 more than any other player. Her 32.7 percent 3-point shooting clip is also lower than many expected. Still, in leaving Clark off the roster, the Olympic Committee seems to be accepting lower television ratings than if Clark was on the team. – Ben Pickman

Players with professional experience were given priority on the roster

What makes Clark and her Fever teammate Boston’s exclusion surprising is that Olympic teams often consist of young players who may not be major contributors in the short term but are seen as the future of the program. That’s not the case this year, as Ionescu, at 26, is the youngest player on the team.

Of course, this year’s team is loaded with talent. The team that will make it to the 2028 Olympics will certainly be the favorites, too. So even without Clark, Boston or Atlanta Dream guard Rhyne Howard on this year’s roster, it’s not like the U.S. is behind the competition. Still, the selection committee’s roster construction philosophy is noteworthy. – Pickman

Can Clark still participate?

One question that remains unanswered is whether Gray will be available for the Olympics. She suffered a lower leg injury in Game 3 of the 2023 WNBA Finals and has not yet participated in this WNBA season. However, she attended the US Olympic training camp in Cleveland, and if she remains healthy, she will likely be the starting point guard. In theory, Clark could potentially replace Gray or substitute for her if another injury occurs before the Olympics. However, once action resumes, Clark, Jones or Boston cannot participate even if a player is injured during competition. – Pickman

Required Reading

(Photo: Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)


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