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Bird, Taurasi headline US women"s hoops national team pool

By DOUG FEINBERG

NEW YORK (AP) Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi are back for another run with the U.S. women's basketball team.

The four-time Olympic gold medalists are among the 29 players chosen Thursday for the national team pool. Eleven members of the 2016 Olympic team that won a sixth consecutive gold medal for the Americans are in the group. The only player missing from that team is Tamika Catchings, who retired after the 2016 WNBA season.

''Our strength has always been our best players play over and over. Our veteran players want to play,'' U.S. national team director Carol Callan said. ''They appreciate representing our country and being part of the USA Basketball culture. We've selected athletes that are a mix of young with the older players. We cover each position well.''

The U.S. already has qualified for next year's FIBA World Cup, which will be held in Spain.

There are five college players in the pool: UConn's Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson, South Carolina's A'ja Wilson, Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell and Louisville's Asia Durr. Most, if not all, of them won't participate in a training camp that will be held in South Carolina from Feb. 9-11. U.S. national team coach Dawn Staley said that Wilson, if her class schedule permits, will be around for the training camp.

''If she doesn't have class, I want her to sit front and center to see how the Olympians, two-, three-, four-time Olympians operate and approach things,'' Staley said. ''I want the entire team to witness what it's like to see our country's best athletes come together and practice and gear up to play.''

Staley, who also coaches South Carolina's women's basketball team, will be playing a dual role that weekend, as her Gamecocks are hosting Florida on that Sunday.

All 29 players in the pool have previous international experience with USA Basketball. They've combined to win 100 gold, two silver and four bronze medals.

''The amount of experience that will be here in Columbia, South Carolina, will be great. Working with the best players that our country has to offer and the 29 players that have been invited,'' Staley said. ''We want to share this experience, being at South Carolina, having them come to see our campus, our university, our city, our state, quite sure they'll find it very enjoyable besides the work we need to put in on the floor.''

Callan said the pool is fluid and players can be added. One player who it didn't sound like will be added is Candace Parker, who won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 but did not make the team in 2016.

''We generally don't talk about players that aren't here because there's a variety of reasons why they aren't,'' Callan said. ''She's one of them, we choose not to try to speak for them. I would simply suggest you ask her. Candace has been an important part of our program over the years and we talked about the decision when she didn't make the Olympic roster. I don't want to speak for her or try to verbalize.''

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