Olympics open in Tokyo, Aldine Nimitz’s Griner on team

Brittney Griner practices in her Team USA uniform.
Brittney Griner practices in her Team USA uniform.

TOKYO – Brittney Griner and Ariel Atkins are players with local ties on this year’s Team USA women’s basketball Olympic roster.

Brittney Griner, who starred at Nimitz High School and Baylor University, won gold with Team USA at the 2016 Olympics as well as at the FIBA World Championships in 2014 and 2018. She was named MVP of the gold medal game in the 2018 FIBA World Championships.

This will be the first Olympics for Ariel Atkins, who starred at the University of Texas before becoming the seventh overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft. This has been a coming-out season for Atkins offensively – she’s averaging career highs in five categories, including her 19.0 points per game. The former Longhorn was a part of the Washington Mystics’ 2019 WNBA Championship team and has been named to the WNBA All-Defensive Team all three seasons she has played in the league. As for the rest of the roster, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will try and become the first five-time Olympic gold medalists in basketball as they lead the U.S women’s team at the Tokyo Games.

The duo was selected for their fifth Olympics last month, joining Teresa Edwards as the only basketball players in U.S. history to play in five. Edwards won four gold medals and a bronze in her illustrious Olympic career.

There have been five international basketball players to play in five Olympics: Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro, Brazil’s Adriana Moises Pinto and Oscar Schmidt, Australia’s Andrew Gaze and Puerto Rico’s Teofilo Cruz.

The 40-year-old Bird and 39-year-old Taurasi will lead a veteran group in Japan, including 6-foot6 Sylvia Fowles, who will be playing in her fourth Olympics. Tina Charles will be in her third while 6-8 Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart are back for a second time.

There will also be six newcomers to the Olympic stage: Atkins, reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Chelsea Gray, Jewell Loyd and Napheesa Collier.

“USA Basketball has never been in a better place,” said U.S. head coach Dawn Staley, who won three Olympic gold medals as a player and helped the team win two more as an assistant coach. “I’m honored to be the coach of such an amazing collection of talented women, both those named to the team and those who gave their all the last few years but won’t be with us in Tokyo.”

The Americans have won the last six consecutive gold medals, not dropping a game at the Olympics since 1992. They are the heavy favorites to win again. The Americans are in a pool with France, Japan and Nigeria, which the U.S. opens up against on July 27. The Americans face Japan on July 30 and France on Aug. 2.

The U.S. team got together in Las Vegas in July to train for a week as well as play an All-Star Game against a selection of WNBA players. The Americans will also play games against Australia and Nigeria.