Loyd is among 13 players, including Storm stars Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, chosen to play in Thursday’s 7 p.m. Team USA exhibition game against China at KeyArena.
Literally and figuratively, Jewell Loyd is in a good place.
The Storm guard is reclining while sitting comfortably on a bench inside Royal Brougham Pavilion at Seattle Pacific University after a recent practice with the USA Basketball women’s national team.
Entering her fourth WNBA season, there are only a few unchecked boxes on the to-do list for the 2015 No. 1 overall pick, which explains why this week is potentially a milestone moment in her young career.
USA vs. China exhibition
7 p.m. Thursday at KeyArena
Streaming options: usab.com/live, USA Basketball’s Facebook page or USA Basketball’s YouTube channel
“At this point, it’s about winning championships,” said Loyd, 24. “That’s where I’m at right now. I’m in a very good place, mentally, emotionally and physically. And to be honest, it’s kind of the first time since I’ve been in the league where everything is all together.
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“It’s taken me a little while to get to this point and I’m super excited about what’s next. Big year. Could be a really big year.”
For Loyd, one of 19 players invited to a three-day minicamp this week in Seattle, a question has been looming: How does she attain one of the coveted 12 spots for Team USA for the upcoming 2018 FIBA World Cup held Sept. 22-30 in Tenerife, Spain and for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo?
For starters, it’s an encouraging sign Loyd is among the 13 players including Storm stars Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart chosen to play in Thursday’s 7 p.m. exhibition against China at KeyArena.
There’s no guarantee the national team roster will remain the same for the World Championships in five months. There are 28 players in the USA Basketball national team pool and many of the top stars like New York Liberty center Tina Charles, Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore and Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner did not attend this week’s camp.
Even still, Loyd, a 5-foot-11 guard who was ninth in the WNBA last season in scoring with a 17.7 points per game average, is making all the right moves to fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“She’s going about it the right way, which is to show up for training camp and to show her interest,” said USA first-year coach Dawn Staley. “She expressed that to me on many occasions and that’s what you have to do. She wants to be a part of an Olympic team. She wants to be a part of 2020. What she needs to do is continue to come in and put her face in front of the committee.
“It’s always a great thing when you see a young player wanting more, wanting to be a part of it and wanting to be an Olympian. … I hope the committee is watching all of her moves because someone who is dedicated to it deserves to be on the Olympic team.”
Still, making the national team is an inexact science. Inexplicably, Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker, a two-time Olympic champion and one of the WNBA’s top players, did not make the USA team in the 2016 Olympics and is unlikely to play in the 2020 Summer Games.
“Sometimes it’s not the 12 best players in the world, but it’s the 12 that work together the best and make each other a great team,” said Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, a four-time Olympic gold medalist. “One of the hardest jobs that the coaches and committee have is nailing it down to 12 compatible players and they’ve always seemed to do a pretty good job of doing that.”
Stewart notes no one remembers who scored the most points or collected the most rebounds in previous Olympics.
“It’s about how can we win a gold medal,” she said. “It’s doing the extra things. If somebody else is open, you make the extra pass. Creating for others. You’re not going to go out there and take 20 shots because you have 11 of the best players in the world playing with you.
“Making this team means humbling yourself. You don’t have to take a lesser role, but play within yourself and be a good teammate. … High-fiving. Standing up when people come out of the game. Little things make all the difference.”
One area in which Loyd has made tremendous strides is being more of a vocal leader thanks in part to Minnesota Lynx forward Seimone Augustus, a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Last week they were working out at the Nike campus in Beaverton, Ore. when Augustus said: “Yo, you got to start talking and start saying things because the veterans aren’t going to be here much longer. At some point this is going to be your team.”
Bird, 37, Taurasi, 35, Augustus, 33, and Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles, 32, are the oldest players in camp. Meanwhile, Loyd is among a youth movement of 20-something stars poised to extend Team USA’s 63-game winning streak.
“There are very few people that haven’t been cut or haven’t gone through some type of change or transition with USA Basketball while trying to get on the national team,” Augustus said. “I’ve been cut three times. Dawn was cut twice. It’s definitely a process and you’ve got to learn that while you’re here.
“Jewell is at the brink of breaking through and becoming an Olympian in the next few years or maybe even 2020.”
• Participants in this week’s USA Basketball women’s national team minicamp who did not make the 13-player roster for Thursday’s exhibition include: Napheesa Collier, Allisha Gray, Tiffany Mitchell, Brittany Sykes, Morgan Tuck and Sydney Wiese.
|Team USA roster|
|USA Basketball women’s national team vs. China.|
|5||Seimone Augustus||G/F||6-0||33||Minnesota Lynx|
|6||Sue Bird||G||5-9||37||Seattle Storm|
|18||Layshia Clarendon||G||5-9||26||Atlanta Dream|
|11||Elena Delle Donne||F/G||6-5||28||Washington Mystics|
|17||Skylar Diggins-Smith||G||6-0||27||Dallas Wings|
|32||Stefanie Dolson||C/F||6-5||26||Chicago Sky|
|13||Sylvia Fowles||C||6-6||32||Minnesota Lynx|
|19||Tiffany Hayes||G||5-10||28||Atlanta Dream|
|4||Jewell Loyd||G||5-11||24||Seattle Storm|
|16||Kelsey Mitchell||F||5-8||22||Indiana Fever|
|10||Breanna Stewart||F||6-4||23||Seattle Storm|
|12||Diana Taurasi||G||6-0||35||Phoenix Mercury|
|33||Elizabeth Williams||C||6-3||24||Atlanta Dream|