NEW YORK (AP) _ Candace Parker was shocked when the two-time Olympic gold medalist learned that she will not be on the U.S. women’s basketball roster for the Rio Games.
“I was surprised and disappointed,” Parker said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Having gone to last two Olympics, I know what it means to represent the USA. I wish everybody on the team good luck. The USA is going to win a sixth gold medal.”
Parker received a call from national team director Carol Callan last week informing her of USA Basketball’s decision.
“I was surprised, very surprised, but it’s tough on her,” Parker said. “I was looking forward to this summer. I played well up until this point. Played well in both camps. I felt like my game is still in its prime.”
USA Basketball declined to comment on Parker not being on team, but is expected to announce the Olympic roster on Wednesday.
Parker helped the U.S. win gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She was the team’s leading rebounder in the London Games four years ago. She is a two-time WNBA MVP and was fifth in the voting for the award last year despite sitting out the first half of the season to rest injuries. When Parker did return, she averaged 19.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and a career-high 6.3 assists.
She’ll miss wearing the red, white and blue uniform.
“You feel it’s bigger than yourself, representing your entire country,” Parker said. “It means a lot to put that USA across your chest. I wore it with a lot of pride, didn’t carry it lightly.”
Parker had 21 points and 11 rebounds against France in the gold medal game in the London Games.
With Parker off the team, it is likely that Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart, who play the same position as Parker, will make their first Olympic rosters.
Delle Donne won the WNBA’s MVP last year and Stewart helped UConn win a fourth straight national championship earlier this month. She was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft and also has helped USA Basketball win gold medals at nearly every level she’s played.
“I feel like any 12 of our top 25 players on the USA team, you put them out there and they’ll win a gold medal,” she said. “I’m disappointed because this is one of the best teams to play USA basketball that I can remember. It hurts a little bit not to be part of it.”
Parker is perhaps the most accomplished player in her prime to not make a U.S. Olympic roster. Los Angeles Sparks co-owner Magic Johnson tweeted out his support of his star player Monday night.
“I’m very disappointed (at)Candace_Parker wasn’t selected to the USA Basketball Women’s Olympic Team,” he tweeted. “I feel (at)Candace_Parker is the best all around women’s basketball player in the world!”
The U.S. has won without Parker in the past, winning both the 2010 and 2014 world championships. The Los Angeles Sparks star player missed both of those tournaments because of injuries.
The Americans will be trying for a sixth straight Olympic gold medal in Rio.
Parker, a former All-American at Tennessee, could still potentially make the team as an alternate. With the WNBA season set to begin on May 14, there is a chance that one of the 12 members of the team could get injured before the Olympics.
“I’ll cross that bridge when it happens,” she said. “I’m older and more mature and feel like I take things as they come. They made their decision and I have to respect it.”
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