USA Basketball defends Caitlin Clark's exclusion from Olympic roster

Reports of Clark's exclusion drew criticism for the potential viewership loss.

ByMason Leib ABCNews logo
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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A USA Basketball executive has come forward to defend the organization's decision not to include Caitlin Clark on the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

"When you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes. Then, sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach Cheryl Reeve], and then sometimes a vote," USA Basketball Women's National Team Committee chair Jen Rizzotti said in an interview with The Associated Press published Tuesday.

Clark was reportedly left off the roster due to her lack of experience compared to those included, according to the AP.

Clark, the No. 1 pick of the 2024 WNBA draft and the highest-scoring player in NCAA Division I women's basketball history, was noticeably absent from the Olympic roster that was officially announced on Tuesday and included WNBA stars like Diana Taurasi, Kelsey Plum, Brittney Griner and Sabrina Ionescu.

Reports of Clark's exclusion drew criticism, with some pointing at what seemed to be a missed opportunity to draw more attention to the team.

"It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team," Rizzotti, a former star at the University of Connecticut, said this week, speaking with the AP.

She reiterated the goal of the selection committee was crafting a cohesive and competitive team, adding that "it wasn't the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the U.S. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl."

USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley told the AP he was optimistic about Clark's future with USA Basketball.

RELATED: Caitlin Clark confirms she will not be on USA Olympic team: 'Hopefully one day I can be there'

"She's certainly going to continue to get better and better," Tooley said, regarding the newly minted Indiana Fever star. "Really hope that she's a big part of our future going forward."

Clark was supportive of those who did make the team when asked about the reports she had been left off the team after practice last week.

"I'm excited for the girls that are on the team. I know it's the most competitive team in the world," Clark said.

"I think it just gives you something to work for," she continued. "I think it's just a little more motivation."

Team USA will be chasing their eighth straight Olympic gold medal in Paris this summer, which would bring their total to 10 if they win.

Notable milestones on this year's roster include Taurasi's sixth-straight Olympic appearance and Griner's first competition abroad since her detainment in a Russian prison in 2022.