OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Geno Auriemma will have three generations of UConn Huskies at his disposal when the U.S. women's basketball team begins play at the World Championship on Thursday.
UConn senior Maya Moore, who became just the third collegian to play for the U.S. at the tournament since 1996, is one of six Huskies who made the squad. Joining her are Connecticut alums, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, Swin Cash, and Asjha Jones.
The U.S. will open up against Greece before facing Senegal and France in their group.
Bird, Taurasi, and Tamika Catchings are the only returners from the U.S. squad that finished a disappointing third in the last World Championship in Brazil, losing to Russia in the semifinals.
"It definitely is a motivator for those of us that were on that team," Catchings said. "I can still remember how I felt after the game sitting in the locker room. We sat there in our uniforms for probably a good 45 minutes to an hour even after the game like, 'OK, what just happened?'"
Coming out of the Olympics in 2008, the Americans thought they were going to be solid in the post for the next decade with young stars Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles leading the way.
But Parker injured her left shoulder early in the WNBA season and is unable to play. Fowles had left knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus right before U.S. training camp began in early September. She's been rehabbing the knee with the U.S. team and is still working her way back to 100 percent.
That will leave the onus on Charles — the WNBA rookie of the year — to carry the post play as Fowles continues to heal. The Americans are carrying two other post players besides Charles, Fowles, and Jones with Candice Dupree and Jayne Appel.
Appel, a 6-foot-5 center, may have solidified her spot on the team with her play in an exhibition game against Australia on Sept. 10. She held her own against Elizabeth Cambage, the Aussies' young 6-foot-8 star.
Rounding out the roster are Angel McCoughtry and Lindsay Whalen. Bird, Cash and McCoughtry re-joined the team Tuesday after playing in the WNBA finals.
The situation in the post may have cost 2008 Olympians Kara Lawson and Seimone Augustus their spots on the World team. They were the final two players cut after both played big parts in the Americans' gold-medal run at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Augustus has been hampered by injuries all season and is still working her way back. Lawson, who had 15 points in the gold-medal win over Australia at the Olympics, played well in the training camp.
"The process has been unbelievably difficult," Auriemma said. "It was probably the most difficult time that I've had as a coach in 35 years. When you have to say goodbye to players as committed to USA Basketball as Kara and Seimone have been, it's very, very, very difficult. But there's so much uncertainty in our post players position that we had to make some very difficult decisions."
Moore joins Parker (2006) and Chamique Holdsclaw (1998) as the only collegians to play for the U.S. at this tournament in the past 12 years.
While Auriemma had input in the selection of the team, the final decisions came down to a committee that he wasn't a part of.
The Americans brought 14 players over to Europe to train before cutting Renee Montgomery, Ebony Hoffman, and Lindsey Harding on Sunday.
"I told them all that this is a three-year process," Auriemma said. "Even if they don't make it to this team they are still part of the national pool and have a chance to play on the Olympic team in 2012."