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Team USA takes over Columbia; praises Staley, Wilson

DAWN STALEY.jpg

It was an exciting weekend for the city of Columbia as the United States women's basketball team held their team's training camp at the Carolina Coliseum.

Team USA, coached by Dawn Staley, are gearing up for the 2018 FIBA World Cup in the fall. A total of 22 players attended the camp, including former Gamecocks Allisha Gray and Tiffany Mitchell, with hopes of making the team.

Some of the biggest names in the women's game were in Columbia, including Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Elena Delle Donne, and Brittney Griner.

Team USA and South Carolina women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley obviously has a lot of experience winning on the biggest stages and Team USA's veterans say it was an honor to learn under her.

"She just brings so much knowledge," Brittney Griner said. "She's won gold as a player, she's won gold as a coach, so just knowledge from both aspects she's able to pull that into us."

Two of the game's biggest and most accomplished veterans, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, were in awe of how she has made South Carolina an elite women's basketball program.

"Now she's going on the road and getting the biggest crowds," Bird said. "When you're like a travelling circus show and people wanna see you, that's when you know you've made it."

Taurasi said, "To change a program's whole appearance over a decade and putting a banner up in here (is amazing). There's a buzz when you say 'South Carolina women's basketball' that, when I was going to school wasn't there."

South Carolina men's basketball head coach Frank Martin got a few glimpses at the national team using the Gamecock facilities and he said that is why it is so special to have Dawn Staley on the staff.

"Who's impacted women's basketball at all levels, in my lifetime, more than her in a positive way?" Martin said. "There's a lot of people making a lot more money now playing women's basketball because of her efforts."

A'ja Wilson is one of South Carolina's greatest athletes ever and many are looking towards her life as a professional player. Wilson is in the Team USA pool, but couldn't practice with the team since South Carolina is in season. Team USA's veterans, however, think she will fit right in with the pros once her college career is done.

"She's got one of those looks when she plays of 'I'm into it and I wanna compete,'" 4-time WNBA champion Maya Moore said. "I'm interested to see how she finishes up her time here."

3-time WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith loves Wilson's game and said, "I think one thing that she does is elbow catch. She has a lot of moves in the lane. I know we'll be playing against each other for years to come."

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