April 12, 2006

Courtesy of USA Basketball

Canberra, Australia – After two spring training sessions that featured veteran international players, USA Basketball brought in some younger kids to test the waters and also to give collegians a look of what the game is like on the senior level. Ohio State junior Jessica Davenport, Louisiana State sophomore Sylvia Fowles, and Tennessee freshman Candace Parker have fit in well among the four Olympic gold medalists and WNBA vets. How has the experience been? Are they learning? Are they being made to feel like they’re part of the team? Find out here!

What is it like being out here with professionals and long-time USA Basketball veterans?
DAVENPORT: I think it’s great. They’re very physical, very smart players, so I can take the knowledge that I’m learning here back to the college game.

FOWLES: I feel like I’m blessed to be able to have the opportunity to come out here and play with them. They’re cool to be around, they all act like mothers, they all teach everything we need to know. They’re fun to be with.

PARKER: It’s a great experience, honestly. I’m just absorbing everything, taking everything in. There’s so much history on the court and on the sideline, with Dawn and Anne being three-time Olympians. And then playing alongside two-time Olympians, it’s just a great experience.

What kind of things are they teaching you on or off the court?
DAVENPORT: They’re helping me with my strengths. I think they figured out that I like hook shots. I was working with Tina the other day, she helped me with my face-up game and being able to read the defense. I think that’ll help me in college. Being around Katie Smith also, since she’s from Ohio State, seeing her work ethic and how she works hard all the time even far away from the WNBA season. I think that made me have that mind-set before I even got here.

FOWLES: Just to keep doing what I was doing and not to rush my shots. That’s a big thing, I always have to worry about rushing. Don’t rush my shots and continue to do what I’m doing. They also taught me that I need to go out there every day and be ready to play and give it your all when you’re out there on the court. (Off the court) they tell us to be yourself. It’s basically common sense. Don’t do anything where you wouldn’t want your name out there, don’t put yourself in bad terms. Be yourself, continue to do what you’re doing and don’t do anything to ruin the program.

(The veterans’) work ethic is good. Everybody gets out there, especially the veterans. They’re really hard on us young ones because they expect us to do good all the time, but it’s always a good thing, a positive thing. Everybody’s been working hard.

PARKER: They’re helping me out with different things, parts of the game. With the offense, in terms of staying positive, with some of the little parts of the game that I don’t necessarily know not having played a lot of international basketball. From knowing most of them, they don’t seem to be the type that wouldn’t help us out and I’ve been thankful that they’ve taken us under their wing and helped us out a lot, with everything. Even in everyday life. This is new to us, traveling with the team, it’s been a great experience.

(Off the court), usually when you go with your college teams or junior teams, there are a lot of team things that you do. With the senior national team you get a lot of individual time, but they’ve actually spent time with me and the other college students here when they didn’t necessarily have to. We’ve gone to dinner and different things like that.

How difficult was it for you to make the transition from the NCAA Tournament and playing with your college team to coming out here with the USA Basketball Women’s Senior National Team?
DAVENPORT: It was kind of hard. I had to change my mental focus, we came off the loss in the tournament and that was hard. But I knew that coming in it was a higher level of players. So, I just had to make sure I was prepared for this.

FOWLES: It wasn’t very difficult. I got over it kind of fast, I didn’t have much of a choice. If I was to sit and ponder on it I don’t think I’d be in the right state of mind. But just to come out here and be ready to work, they help you out with every problem you have. I think it was a good transition for me.

PARKER: I was actually not ready for basketball to end when our season ended, so this gives me another chance to compete. I’m really thankful for that. Our season ended a little early and I was still hungry to play. My transition was … I wanted to play some more so this gave me an opportunity to continue to do so for a few weeks longer.

How will this help your game next season?
DAVENPORT: I think it will help a lot. Every time you play for USA Basketball it helps. Last summer, I was able to work on my high post game and that really helped out for my season this year. From this spring experience, I’ll be able to take a better face-up game back.

FOWLES: Just to learn how to be a vocal leader and how to see the floor. Not just going out there and playing, but to be able to read defenses, and just to be ready to go out there and work and be a leader.

PARKER: This is a huge step, in terms of identifying where I am right now. Going into the summer, it gives me a chance to get better. Just measuring where you are and where you want to be with different people on the court who have had success in basketball. I think that it’s a great opportunity for me to go into the summer and work as hard as I can to hopefully come back here and be there next year.

What have you been doing off the court?
DAVENPORT: Just hanging out, walking around after practice and after the games, seeing all we can see. Mostly getting to know each other.

FOWLES: Just chilling, hanging out among ourselves.

What went through your mind when you found out you would be added to the team for this portion of spring training?
DAVENPORT: I was excited. I felt like it was a true Olympic experience to be able to play with them at this young age. So I was excited.

FOWLES: I felt that I was blessed. But then again I was kind of nervous because I didn’t know how it would be. It’s been good though.

PARKER: I thought it was a tremendous honor. Coach (Pat Summitt) called me and coach is kind of been there, done that. So she mentioned it kind of nonchalantly, you know like `come by my office, we’ll talk about it and see if you want to do it.’ For me, it was never an option. I wanted to do it. It was a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

How do you like Australia?
DAVENPORT: I like it. I went the summer of my ninth grade year for a summer foreign tour. We went to Sydney and Brisbane, so this kind of feels like my second home over here. I like the weather. Every time I’ve been here the weather’s been nice and hot. The weather’s great and the people are great. I really like it here.

FOWLES: I’m liking it a lot. The weather in Cairns reminded me of home. Hot and sticky!

PARKER: I’ve never been to Australia. It’s great. All I wanted to do when I came here was hold a koala bear and I did. So I’m really excited about that. I’ve satisfied everything I wanted to do here.

Did you like the experience of holding the koala bear?
DAVENPORT: That was pretty exciting. It was the second time I got to see a koala, but the first time I’ve gotten to hold it. It was pretty exciting, I usually don’t hold animals.

PARKER: It was great. It was so much fun. I didn’t realize they were as gentle as they are. They kind of just lay on your chest. They’re real gentle animals.

Why didn’t you hold the koala bear?
FOWLES: I don’t deal with animals. I don’t mind holding them, but when they start moving I tend to let go. I didn’t want that problem!

Is there anything else you want to get out of this trip?
DAVENPORT: Just a lot of friendships, the people here have been great, so just to be able to know them.