USA's Lisa Leslie, left, Diana Taurasi, center, Sue Bird, right, share a momnet during their game against New Zealand during the fourth quarter of their women's preliminary  basketball game at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Here is the press release from USA Women’s Basketball concerning the roster for the 2009-12 USA Basketball Women’s National Team coached by UConn Huskies women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma:

Looking to continue its unprecedented run of four consecutive Olympic gold medals, USA Basketball today announced that eight of the athletes who helped the U.S. capture a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, will return to the red, white and blue as members of the 2009-12 USA Basketball Women’s National Team. Forming the initial USA Women’s National Team roster are two-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury); as well as ’08 gold medalists Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs), Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) and Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix Mercury). Player selections were made by the five member USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee.

As was the case over the last quadrennium, the USA team will be fluid and athletes will be added progressively to the 2009-12 USA National Team roster. It is expected that the official 12-member 2010 USA World Championship and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams, should the USA qualify, will be comprised of players from the 2009-12 USA National Team.

“Naming these eight players was not that difficult of a decision to make, I’m sure, because those eight were truly instrumental in winning the Olympics in Beijing,” said 2009-12 USA Basketball Women’s National Team head coach Geno Auriemma of the University of Connecticut. “As long as they want to play and maintain their level of play, I can’t see them not being on the team. I’m excited about the fact that their experience and their knowledge of what it takes to win a gold medal is going to help me tremendously as we move forward.

“I’m looking forward to the training camp this fall. I know not all of them are going to be there, I would presume, because a few of them will be playing in the championship series in the WNBA. I understand that, but just to be around them to let them get a feel for me, it will give me an opportunity to evaluate what they can do, what they do well. It’ll help me put them in a position to be successful. I’m really looking forward to that. And not just with the eight players that we’re talking about, but also the players who will be added to finish off the training camp roster. It’ll be an exciting time for me and I hope it’s an exciting time for all of them.”

Additional athletes and coaches will be invited to participate in the USA’s first training camp, which will be held this fall (dates and site TBA) at a later date.

In addition to their Olympic experience, the eight named players have competed extensively internationally for USA Basketball. Bird and Catchings are two-time USA World Championship team members; while Augustus, Taurasi and Parker were on the 2006 USA World Championship Team, and Pondexter was an alternate for the 2006 USA World Championship Team.

In all, Augustus has captured five golds, one silver and one bronze medal in international competition; Bird and Catchings own six gold medals, one silver and one bronze medal each; Fowles has three golds and one silver medal to her credit; Lawson helped USA teams earn three golds, two silver medals and one bronze medal; Parker has three golds and one bronze medal; Pondexter owns a total of six gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze; while Taurasi lists four golds, one silver and two bronze medals on her USA Basketball resume.

Augustus suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee on June 17 and will not actively participate with the team in the fall, however, she is expected to attend the training camp.

In the past dozen years, the highly successful USA Basketball Women’s National Team program, ranked No. 1 in the world by FIBA, has posted a 63-1 slate in major international competitions, winning four consecutive Olympic gold medals (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008), two FIBA World Championship golds (1998, 2002), one FIBA World Championship bronze medal (2006) and one FIBA Americas Championship gold medal (2007).

The USA Basketball Women’s National Team will compete in the 2010 FIBA World Championship (Sept. 23 – Oct. 3 in the Czech Republic); if necessary the 2011 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament (dates and site TBD); and if the USA qualifies, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games (July 26-Aug. 12 in London, England), as well as additional USA training camps and exhibition games.

The U.S. will first look to capture the title at the 16th FIBA World Championship, with an automatic berth to the 2012 Olympic Games being awarded to the gold medalist. Should the U.S. not finish with the gold medal in ‘10, it would have two additional chances to qualify for the Olympics: the 2011 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament; and 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (dates and site TBD).

The USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee is comprised of WNBA representatives Reneé Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations; Dan Hughes, Head Coach and General Manager of the San Antonio Silver Stars; and Chief Operating Officer/General Manager of the Indiana Fever Kelly Krauskopf; athlete representative and five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards; and USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan.

FIBA World Championship
The FIBA World Championship has been contested essentially every four years since 1953, and the United States captured the first two Worlds gold medals before the beginning of the Soviet domination of women’s basketball was kicked-off at the 1959 World Championship. The former USSR put together a string of five straight golds (1959, 1964, 1967, 1971, 1975), before the United States reclaimed gold in 1979. The Soviet Union in 1983 earned its final World Championship crown as the USA went on to capture four of the next five World Championships (1986, 1990, 1998, 2002). The only other nations to break into the gold medal column at this event are Australia, the defending world champion, and Brazil, which defeated the USA in the 1994 semifinals and went on to take the top spot that year.

The USA owns a record seven gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in FIBA World Championship play, while compiling an all-time 88-21 record at the event. In 2006, the most recent World Championship, the U.S. fell 75-68 to Russia in the semifinals, but rebounded to take host Brazil 99-59 in the bronze medal game and finish with an 8-1 record. Australia earned the gold after defeating Russia 91-74 in the final contest.

Already qualified for two of the 16 slots are host Czech Republic and the USA as defending Olympic champions. The 14 remaining spots will be decided through FIBA Zone (Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania) qualifying tournaments in 2009.

The 16th FIBA World Championship format will feature a round-robin competition in preliminary round play with four groups comprised of four teams each. The top three teams from each preliminary group advance to form two second round groups consisting of six teams each. Each team’s results from its preliminary group carries over to the second round standings and each team will play the other three teams in the second round group whom they have not previously faced. The top four teams from those two groups will advance on to the medal round, and the gold medal game will be played Oct. 3.

Additional quotes are available through the USA Basketball website.