Will Caitlin Clark go to the 2024 Olympics? Why Lisa Leslie believes Iowa star ‘100 percent’ should be on Team USA | Sporting News

Will Caitlin Clark go to the 2024 Olympics? Why Lisa Leslie believes Iowa star ‘100 percent’ should be on Team USA | Sporting News

Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark is one step closer to playing on the USA Basketball Women’s Olympic Team. 

Should Clark be on the team that plays in the Summer Olympics in Paris from July 26-Aug. 11? Four-time gold medalist Lisa Leslie will not hesitate to answer that question.  

“One hundred percent,” Leslie told Sporting News. “One thousand percent. I can’t even let you get the question out. I don’t know how you leave the country without her.” 

Clark was among the 14 players invited to the USA Basketball training camp, which ran from April 3-5 in Cleveland. Clark had to skip the camp in favor of the 2024 Women’s Final Four, which is April 5-7 in Cleveland.

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The Iowa guard leads the NCAA with 31.8 points and 8.8 assists per game. And Clark was the only college player among the 14 players invited to the camp, and that is sure to be a topic of conversation leading up to the selection of the 12 players for this year’s team. 

“Those are the parts of the politics that I hope we get past because there is no reason – when you see an American player is the most outstanding player in our country — how is she not having the opportunity to represent our country?” Leslie asked.

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Which WNBA players were invited to the Team USA Basketball Camp? 

Clark’s participation in the training camp hung on whether the Hawkeyes reached the Final Four for the second consecutive season. They did, which left Clark focusing on the Final Four while the training camp took place. 

The roster is loaded with WNBA talent, led by five-time Olympic champion Diana Taurasi. She is one of nine former Olympians on the team. Other former Olympic players include:  

  • Ariel Atkins 
  • Chelsea Gray 
  • Brittney Griner 
  • Jewell Lloyd 
  • Kelsey Plum 
  • Breanna Stewart
  • A’ja Wilson 
  • Jackie Young 

Shakira Austin and Sabrina Ionescu played on the 2022 USA Women’s World Cup Team, and Aliyah Boston and Rhyne Howard also will be in attendance at the camp. It is a loaded roster that will be trimmed down to 12 ahead of the Summer Olympics in Paris. 

Minnesota Lynx coach Sheryl Reeve is the head coach of this year’s team. 

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Will Caitlin Clark make Team USA? 

While the roster is loaded with WNBA talent, the fact Clark has been invited to training camp means she will be considered for the final roster. 

This isn’t the same situation as the 1992 Team USA Men’s Basketball Team, which took Duke’s Christian Laettner as its only college player – a decision that is still debated 32 years later. 

Clark is one of the most-visible at all levels of basketball right now.  She has 3,830 career points, which surpassed marks set by Washington’s Kelsey Plum (3,527) and Kansas’ Lynette Woodard (3,649) on the women’s side and LSU’s Pete Maravich (3,667) on the men’s side. 

The popularity in the women’s basketball game has increased on the college side because of Clark and other young superstars, and that is a factor Team USA must consider even though Clark has not played in the WNBA yet. 

“I don’t know her path through USA Basketball, but I know USA Basketball knows who Caitlin Clark is and somehow they have to figure out how to make that work,” Leslie said. 

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What the 2024 Olympics mean for Team USA, Caitlin Clark

Leslie is an authority when it comes to Team USA Women’s Basketball. She was on the 1996 Olympic team that won the gold medal in Atlanta. One year later, the WNBA began play. That was a generational team that helped influence the growth of women’s basketball in the United States. 

“It reminds me of the ‘96 Olympics – it was the year of the women,” Leslie said. “We won gold across eight or nine different sports and it was a game-changer. That’s how we launched the WNBA and professional soccer leagues. That is the impact the women’s tournament has right now.”

Why not continue that momentum into the Summer Olympics and WNBA season? 

Clark could be a supporting cast member on a team that includes WNBA legends and up-and-coming superstars. Would she fit in that role? Leslie sees no reason why that would not work out this summer in Paris. 

“I think the thing that makes players great is to be able to make everyone around you better, and Caitlin has been able to do that,” Leslie said. 

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