Catchings, Bird, Taurasi headline finalists for US team

Tamika Catchings, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi are in line to try for a fourth straight Olympic gold medal.

The trio headlined the 25 finalists for the U.S. women's basketball Olympic team that were announced Monday.

They have helped the Americans win gold at the past three Olympics and hope to be on the team in Rio this summer. The U.S. has won an unprecedented five straight gold medals in the Olympics.

Other former Olympians among the finalists include Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker, Tina Charles, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen.

''I think the committee has a tough decision ahead of it,'' U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. ''When I look at this list of athletes, we could split them down the middle and have two very competitive teams.

''We have a great mix of gold medalists and players who are hungry to play in their first Olympics. There is versatility at all positions. Our posts are the strongest we've seen in years, we have guys who can shoot, guys who can defend, and I'm just happy I don't have to make the decision as to who will be playing in Rio.''

The U.S. will conduct a training camp from Feb. 21-23 at UConn, which will serve as a final opportunity for the players to impress the selection committee before the team is expected to be announced this spring.

''Naming the Olympic Team finalists is another step in our selection process,'' USA Basketball national team director Carol Callan said.

''Because of the quality and talent in the USA National Team pool, every time we pare the list it is a difficult task.

''Yet, we eventually have to get down to a 12-member team, so we conscientiously look at the present goal of winning a gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games with an eye to sustaining our success in the future. This list of finalists is a mix of veterans, youth, international savvy and USA Basketball experience.''

Other WNBA stars among the finalists include league MVP Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins. UConn senior Breanna Stewart is also one of the 25 players.

Jewell Loyd, the league's rookie of the year last season, was added to the national team pool and is one of the final 25.

''I think her addition is because of some of the success she had during the summer playing in Seattle,'' said Auriemma on Loyd's selection to the USA National Team pool and list of U.S. Olympic Team finalists.

''There is a concerted effort to get as many guards into this training camp as possible because we can't just think about now, we also have to think about the future. She is one of the best young players in the league and deserves to be there.''

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