It was a different cast of characters but the same sweet result. At the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup, which concluded last Saturday, the U.S. women’s team secured its fourth consecutive World Cup title, defeating China 83–61. The victory makes the U.S. an automatic qualifier to the 2024 Olympics. A’ja Wilson was named MVP. Additionally, she and Breanna Stewart were named to the 2022 Women’s World Cup All-Star Five.
“We came here on a mission,” said Wilson while sipping champagne and looking both exhilarated and exhausted following the gold medal game. “I wasn’t even here the whole time, but I’m glad that I was here [Wilson, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum came to Australia after the Las Vegas Aces became WNBA Champions]. We played pretty good. Getting used to Cheryl [Reeve’s] system was big for us, and I think we handled it well.”
This was Reeve’s first big test as head coach of the Senior National Team. “I thought we were just really determined, particularly defensively,” said Reeve. “We had some really great moments, and obviously A’ja Wilson was spectacular.”
This was a young U.S. team, and Reeve noted that some opponents probably thought a team without five-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi would be vulnerable. “What we showed is that our league, the WNBA and professional basketball players in the United States are really good and the depth of talent that we have was on display,” said Reeve. “What I’m most pleased with is the trust and buy-in. … I wanted to make sure we enjoyed this journey.”
This marks the first time that two active New York Liberty players were on an Olympic or World Cup roster, giving Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney their first taste of gold with the Senior National Team. The Liberty also had international representation at this World Cup. Han Xu was a member of China’s silver medal team and was named to the All-Star Five. Rebecca Allen and Sami Whitcomb were part of the Australian team that won bronze with Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello at the helm. The bronze medal game included a spectacular comeback/farewell performance by three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, who scored 30 points.
Coverage cannot end without mentioning someone who was missing from the U.S. team, Brittney Griner, who remains detained in Russia. In honor of Griner, no member of the U.S. team wore number 15, which is her number.