UConn senior Breanna Stewart is taking a break from her season to participate in a three-day training camp for the U.S. women's national basketball team.
Stewart, who has guided the No. 1 Huskies to an undefeated season, is the only college athlete among the 16 players competing. She won't miss any games, with UConn playing the day before and the day after the camp. She helped the U.S. win gold at the 2014 World Championship.
''When I found out I was going to be able to practice with the national team at training camp, I was excited,'' Stewart said. ''It's another opportunity for me to make an impression with the team and another opportunity to learn from all the players that are coming here. I would definitely much rather participate in these practices instead of just being able to watch. I'm just thrilled that I have this opportunity.''
Joining Stewart at the training sessions from Feb. 21-23 on UConn's campus are former Huskies Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Maya Moore. Three-time Olympian Tamika Catchings returns to USA Basketball after helping the team win its fifth straight gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
''It's going to be great to be back with that group again,'' Catchings said. ''Between injuries, playoffs and other things, I haven't been able to be around them the last few years.''
Former Olympians Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Angel McCoughtry will attend camp, along with WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner.
''Because of the different schedules our players and coaches work under, we don't have a lot of time to be together, so this three-day training camp becomes a vital part in our preparations,'' said U.S. coach Geno Auriemma. ''This is a good opportunity to train and help us prepare for Rio.
''It gives us a chance to take a look at some of the returning players that didn't take the trip to Europe last fall and to continue to look at positions for the future. It gives the committee an opportunity to see where everyone is physically and how they fit in.''
It's a rare opportunity for the U.S. team to train in February because most players are competing overseas in Russia, Turkey or other countries. With FIBA's recent changes in World Championship qualifying procedures, there are now breaks in European club play so national teams can train and compete in the EuroBasket qualifying system.
China is the only country not taking a break, with Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker and Tina Charles playing in the postseason there. Moore's team was just eliminated, ending a three-year run as a champion of the league.
The camp will serve as the last chance for the players to impress the selection committee before the team is announced this spring.
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