Rolling Out

Olympian Napheesa Collier opens up about Caitlin Clark not making Team USA

The Minnesota Lynx star is placed in the weird position of explaining the choices for the Olympic team

Napheesa Collier is grateful. For the second time in the past four years, the star Minnesota Lynx forward has made the most difficult team in all of basketball: the senior Olympic Team USA squad.

“It’s a really hard roster to make,” Collier told the media on June 11. “The ‘W‘ is the most competitive league and you’re putting that down to 12 people. So I think it’s a really hard decision. I think everyone on the team deserves to be on the team. More people deserve to be on the team as well. But ultimately, it’s what the committee decides. I think the team looks really good. We have a solid amount of veteran presence and younger people.”

The primary discussion in mainstream media around Team USA this go-around has centered on the omission of Caitlin Clark, the WNBA rookie and arguably the most popular player in the league.

“Obviously, I know who you’re talking about,” Collier said in response to a reporter who asked her about the 12 players who did make the team. “It’s a hard decision, and I’m glad I didn’t have to make it.”

Clark grabbed the basketball world’s attention during her exceptional collegiate career at the University of Iowa but has struggled early on the professional level with inconsistent shooting performances and 5.4 turnovers per night.

There are so many elements to the Clark discussion that make it polarizing: Misogyny, racism and bias, to name a few.

For athletes like Collier, the new magnifying glass comes with a shift in questions: “Why don’t more people watch women’s basketball on a professional level” to, “What do you think about the entertaining offensive show that hails from Iowa?”

The fatigue from the extreme focus being only on one player can get annoying quickly. As far as the Clark debate has gone, it is way past basketball and sports. It is primarily about the human nature of division and thirst for attention in an oversaturated market of hot takes and other opinions nowadays. For athletes like Collier — who has had a national following since her days in the mid-2010s playing at UConn — they will continue to get questions about Clark, not necessarily for the journalist’s satisfaction but for the general public’s rage-baiting need to begin more online debates.

But every now and then, Collier and other athletes still receive the same lighthearted inquiries based on prior knowledge of the sport. Like when the Star Tribune‘s Kent Youngblood asked Collier if she’ll be able to get along with Team USA’s head coach Cheryl Reeve, who is also the longtime head coach for the Lynx.

“I don’t know,” Collier said before cracking a smile. “She’s kind of a hard a–. So I guess we’ll see.”

Through the first 12 games of the season, Collier is averaging 20.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. That stat line is only bested by Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson, who has an early jump in contending for her third career MVP this year.

The 2024 Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony in Paris begins July 26.

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