It’s no secret that the USA Women’s basketball team is among the best teams in the world, if not the best.
On Thursday, that status was confirmed as the Women’s World Cup team was named the 2018 USA Basketball Team of the Year after winning the 2018 FIBA World Cup (their third straight) with a perfect 6-0 record.
In the tournament, held from Sept. 22-30 in Tenerife, Spain, the USA women’s team beat their opponents by an average of 20.3 points per game. As the winning team, they automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.
As USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley alluded to in the press statement, the World Cup victory was not something to be taken lightly.
“The FIBA World Cup always is an incredibly intense and competitive event, and what the U.S. team accomplished was remarkable,” Tooley said. “The roster was not finalized until just days before the competition, yet the USA played with great teamwork and was a joy to watch on and off the court.”
Led by 2018 USA National Basketball Head Coach of the Year Dawn Staley, the team featured seven players with prior Olympic and/or World Cup experience. The team also had five newcomers that didn’t have experience at this level of play, which did give Staley a bit of concern.
“We had a very good mix of young players in their first World Cup to experienced players,” Staley said. “To see the process work, which was scary at times in that we didn’t know who we would have and when we would have them, and then prepare together as a team, made it very special. They were super motivated to win every time we stepped on the floor. For us to do that time and again is incredible, because the rest of the world is catching up to us, and they’re catching up when we have less time to prepare.”
The USA basketball team featured five players who averaged double-figures in scoring. Leading the charge on the court was Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart, who won the tournament MVP to cap off what was a banner year for her. In Stewart’s eyes, this tournament victory was a collective effort more than individual.
“We came together, because we had the ‘next person up mentality,'” Stewart said. “There were some people who were on the Olympic Team who didn’t come to the World Cup this year, so there were new opportunities for younger players who didn’t have as much experience playing for USA Basketball, but they stepped right up.”
Along with winning the tournament MVP, Stewart was part of the all-tournament team. Joining her on the team was fellow USA teammate and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.
To top off her spectacular year, Stewart was named the 2018 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year. This is the third time in her career that she has won the accolade.
“It’s really an honor,” Stewart explained. “Each time that I’ve won has had its own special meaning, its own special place. This one is special,because I was in a different position than I was with the other ones. I was playing with a lot of younger players and had to perform really well and be at my best at the World Cup. It wasn’t a team that had a lot of time together, and we didn’t have a lot of time to work with coach [Dawn] Staley in putting the pieces together.”