NORMAN, Okla. Oklahoma center Courtney Paris begins her busy spring and summer basketball schedule on Friday afternoon when she travels to Rome to start training with the USA Senior National Team.
Members of the USA Senior National Team pool are expected to gather in the Eternal City for an April 7-19 Tour of Italy, which will include an exhibition game against the Italian National Team, as well as contests versus a pair of professional clubs and a final game against a regional all-star squad.
“I have a huge opportunity in front of me, one that every player dreams about,” said Paris. “I expect it to be a learning experience. Almost every player on that team has played at the highest level of international basketball. I am going to be the rookie, the inexperienced one with everything to prove.”
Paris and former Duke point guard Lindsey Harding are the only rookies in the USA Senior National Team pool of 22 players.
“I am going to have to work my hardest and play at a very high level to make this team,” said Paris. “That challenge is in front of me and I couldn’t be more excited about it.”
The U.S. players will practice April 7-10 before taking on the Italian National Team on April 11 in Rome (1:30 p.m. EDT), followed by an April 12 exhibition versus the professional team Phard Napoli in Naples (3:30 p.m. EDT).
After three additional days of practice, USA meets the professional team Pallancestro Viterbo on April 16 (3:00 p.m. EDT) in Viterbo. The U.S. will return to Rome for a game against an all-star squad made up of top players from Italy's Pomezia Region on April 17 (12:00 p.m. EDT). The USA will cap its Tour of Italy with practices on April 18 and 19.
"It is an incredible opportunity for Courtney," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. "Courtney takes great pride in her involvement with USA Basketball. We look forward to her representing OU and USA to the best of her abilities."
Paris has a wealth of experience within the USA Basketball program. The dominant center has won gold medals during international competition each of the last three summers (2004, 2005, 2006).
With the U20 World Championship Team last summer, Paris led the US in scoring and rebounding with averages of 14.2 and 8.4, respectively.
Also on the USA roster are: Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Alana Beard (Washington Mystics), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Swin Cash (Detroit Shock), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Jessica Davenport (Ohio State University), Katie Douglas (Connecticut Sun), Cheryl Ford (Detroit Shock), Sylvia Fowles (Louisiana State University), Taj McWilliams-Franklin (Connecticut Sun), DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics), Deanna Nolan (Detroit Shock), Courtney Paris (University of Oklahoma), Candace Parker (University of Tennessee), Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix Mercury), Katie Smith (Detroit Shock), Michelle Snow (Houston Comets), Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) and Lindsay Whalen (Connecticut Sun).
“I know we'll get some good training in during this Italian camp," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "We'll get a solid two weeks of practices together with the core group of players who are on our roster. I'm excited to get some quality training time. It's wonderful that we're going to be able to be in the same location, working out of Italy the entire time for all of our practices and games. In addition to the games giving us good international competition, our intra-squad scrimmages during practices will be extremely competitive. I'm looking forward to the competitiveness that we typically see in USA Basketball practices."
Following a break for the WNBA season, the USA Women's Senior National Team will reconvene in early September at a site to be determined to begin preparations for the FIBA Americas Championship 2007. Slated for Sept. 25-29 in Valdivia, Chile, not only is a gold medal on the line at the FIBA Americas tournament, the winner also will receive a berth in the 2008 Olympics. In addition to the USA, teams participating in the FIBA Americas Championship 2007 will be Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico. Should the United States not return home from Chile with the gold medal, there will be one final chance to qualify for the Olympics at the 2008 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament slated for June 9-15 at a site TBD.
The complete USA Women's Senior National Team training plans, including its pre-FIBA Americas Championship training, will be announced at a later date and will include a training camp in the fall of 2007, as well as a pair of camps in the spring of 2008.