Geno Auriemma's eyes light up talking about the talented and versatile post players at his disposal for the Olympics.
Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles and Tina Charles have dominated the WNBA in the first half of the season, all putting up MVP numbers. Each brings a unique skill set that makes them difficult to guard individually. Together they become a matchup nightmare.
Whether it's the 6-foot-4 Parker's ability to take players off the dribble, the 6-4 Charles' mid-range jumper, or 6-6 Fowles' powerful post moves — they all are multifaceted.
"They are so dynamic in what they can do which makes them so versatile," Auriemma said Saturday following a basketball clinic for military families. "What sets us apart from the rest of the world is that other countries may have one, maybe two really good post players, but we have three to go along with incredibly talented guards."
Auriemma could potentially play the trio together, which would create matchup problems for any opponent.
"We have a lot of different lineups that we can play with," Auriemma said smiling. "We have a lot of things we'll try out."
Auriemma is beginning to implement those twists during two days of training this weekend in D.C. before playing Brazil in an exhibition game Monday night. From there the team heads to Manchester for a game against Britain before a five-day training session in Istanbul.
The U.S. women's national team opens up its Olympic play on July 28 against Croatia. Other teams in the Americans' group are China, Angola, the Czech Republic and Turkey.
The trio of Charles, Fowles and Parker are the latest in a line of dominant post players the U.S. women's team has featured in winning the last four Olympic gold medals.
"You lost two of the greatest posts of all-time with Lisa (Leslie) and Tina (Thompson) gone," Parker said. "We can't replace them, but we can build on what they accomplished. It's our turn to carry on the tradition."
Parker and Fowles came off the bench in the 2008 Beijing Games, which was their first Olympics. Fowles ended up leading the team in scoring playing limited minutes. Both say they learned a lot from their predecessors.
"I learned to never take anything for granted," Fowles said. "They set quite the tone and showed us what it was like to be an Olympian."
Parker had the benefit of playing with and being mentored by Leslie while playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.
"She has been so influential in my career that I can only hope to continue what she started," Parker said.
London will be the first time that trio has played together in a major international event. Parker missed the 2010 world championship because of a left shoulder injury. She's now at 100 percent and playing the best basketball of her young career. The 26-year-old is averaging 19 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks this season.
"I just take it one day at a time," Parker said. "Syl, Tina and I can cause a lot of matchup problems for everyone on offense. Knowing we have Syl behind us on 'D' will just make us that much more tenacious."
That's not good for opponents considering the U.S. dominated the world championships without Parker, Fowles recovering from a knee injury and Charles fresh out of college. The USA squad ran through the competition en route to the gold medal and the automatic berth in the London Games.
"We're going to get better as we go along," said Fowles, who is averaging 18.5 points and 12.4 rebounds this season for the Chicago Sky. "London will be beautiful to have me, Tina and Candace together. Once we start getting more comfortable with each other, that high-low post game will be dangerous."
All three are averaging double-doubles for their respective WNBA squads, yet they know that it's more about winning the gold than individual stats.
"It definitely makes us unique how everyone brings a different part of the game to the circle," Charles said. "We got to do what we do best as everyone's roles change."
While the trio may get all the headlines, the fourth U.S. post player, Asjha Jones, has quietly put together a solid season of her own helping the Connecticut Sun to the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
She suffered a left ankle injury on Wednesday night against the Washington Mystics. Jones sat out practice Saturday night, but expects to be fine soon.
"I definitely will be back soon," Jones said. "We're just taking care of it now."
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