Storm All-Star Sue Bird was one of five former Connecticut players named to USA Basketball’s 2012 Olympic team on Friday. Basketball’s portion of the London Games from July 28 through August 11 will be Bird’s third stint, second as the expected starting point guard.
“My role with the national team has been a maturation process in and of itself,” she said in a Storm release. USAB named 11 players total. “As each year passed I became more experienced and more able to help lead this team. Now I feel like a true veteran, which is how I viewed Dawn Staley in 2002 and 2004. I also became much more comfortable, both on and off the court, which has helped me as well.”
The 10-year WNBA vet is currently representing UMMC Ekaterinburg during the EuroLeague Women’s Final Eight in Istanbul, Turkey. Bird, 31, broke her nose during warmups on Wednesday, missing Ekat’s opening 62-49 loss to Ros Casares as she was evaluated at a local hospital.
Wearing an archaic mask reminiscent of Robert Downey, Jr. in the flick “Iron Man,” Bird started in Friday’s 86-80 win against her former Russian team, Sparta&K. She finished with 18 points and will play Fenerbahce for third place on Sunday.
Lauren Jackson, a three-time WNBA MVP, will lead Valencia, Spain’s Ros Casares against underdog Rivas Ecopolis for the championship on Sunday. Storm signee Ann Wauters and reserve player Jana Vesela are also on the roster that made fall headlines with additional signings of Maya Moore and Sancho Lyttle in pure pursuit of a EuroLeague title.
Rivas is led by UConn alum Asjha Jones and former Rutgers star Essence Carson, who weren’t named to the Olympic team. Jones is averaging 22.3 points and 12 rebounds in EuroLeague tournament play and being considered by broadcasters as tournament MVP.
The highlight of play in Istanbul was when bitter rivals Fenerbahce and Galatasaray played a second-round game on Thursday. A women’s basketball record of 8,500 attended at the 11,416-seat Abdi Ipekci Sports Hall and began their antics by throwing rolls of toilet paper, building to a crescendo of setting off flares and firecrackers.
Riot Police in full gear were spotted on FIBA-TV’s broadcast, but little appeared to be done to calm the singing, rowdy crowd. The game only stopped a few times, Fenerbahce winning 75-67. Below is video from the game. If you’d like to see Sunday’s matchups, click here. You can also follow my updates from all four games on Twitter (@JaydaEvans).
*PHOTO CREDIT: PG Sue Bird directs her Russian team on Thursday in Turkey by FIBA.