Few WNBA teams take advantage of USA Under-23 camp

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) USA Basketball's Under-23 camp was a WNBA scout's dream.

Where else could they watch 36 of the top women's college basketball players in the same gym playing against each other? Yet only three WNBA teams took advantage of that opportunity this week.

USA Basketball national team director Carol Callan emailed all 12 WNBA teams, inviting them to send one representative to the first U23 camp. Only New York, Chicago and Los Angeles traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Phoenix planned on sending vice president Ann Meyers Drysdale, but a death in her family prevented her from going. Other teams contacted by The Associated Press gave a variety of reasons for not attending, but none were financial.

When USA Basketball holds its annual Nike Hoop Summit, nearly every NBA team is there watching.

New York Liberty president Isiah Thomas saw the benefits of sending a representative to scout the camp.

''The training camp offers a unique opportunity for the New York Liberty to evaluate the top prospects for what appears to be exceptionally deep 2018 and 2019 draft classes,'' Thomas told The Associated Press in an email. ''I want to commend USA Basketball for putting together a competitive program, providing the players with an opportunity to showcase their talents. It was a priority for our organization to be on site and see firsthand the future superstars of the WNBA competing at the highest level, and we considered it to be a critical part of our process in planning for the draft.''

Most WNBA teams scout in the winter when the league is out of season and players are competing for their college teams. There was a lull in the WNBA schedule this week with only two games played during the camp, which would have allowed more teams to show up.

''During the college season, it can be difficult to see games in person where WNBA prospects are matched up,'' said Liberty director of basketball operations Dan Padover, who was at the camp all week. ''At the U23 training camp, we had a chance to see the best playing the best. There are approximately 20 players in attendance that will likely be selected in the first two rounds of the 2018 and 2019 WNBA drafts.''

Padover also said the structure of the camp was helpful for evaluating not only skills.

''The format allowed us to see how quickly players could adjust to learning offensive sets, defensive schemes and playing with new teammates, a key consideration given how quickly they would need to adapt in a WNBA training camp,'' Padover said.

Officials from Chicago, which has two picks in the first round after trading with Atlanta, appreciated the camp put on by USA Basketball.

''I want to thank Carol Callan for opening the doors and extending the invitation for us to attend,'' Sky coach and general manager Amber Stocks said. ''It's the best of the best and this is the perfect environment. Players are playing against such great talent.''

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