Aces standouts A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum have spent the last three weeks competing against elite players such as Brittney Griner, Tina Charles, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.
They’ll spend the next week competing alongside them.
Wilson, recently named the WNBA’s rookie of the year after averaging 20.7 points and 8.0 rebounds for the Aces, and Plum, who averaged 9.7 points, will represent Team USA at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup from Sept. 22 to 30 in Tenerife, Spain.
They qualified for the 12-player roster, fulfilling lifelong goals of representing their country on the senior level and playing alongside the game’s greats.
The Americans, after all, are the two-time defending World Cup champions.
“This is something that young girls dream of, playing for Team USA and being an Olympian,” Wilson said during a phone interview from Spain. “This is a step in becoming one.”
At 22, Wilson is the youngest player on the roster and has developed into a go-to scorer during exhibition play.
U.S. coach Dawn Staley said she’s confident Wilson can produce, but also hopes she uses the tournament to improve while playing with other elite players.
“I don’t want her to just concentrate on the points or the rebounds,” said Staley, who coached Wilson at South Carolina. “She’s got to grasp some knowledge that can take her far greater than this month’s experience. Her role is twofold — to help us to win and to also learn.”
Wilson, Charles, Griner and Nneka Ogwumike comprise the team’s group of traditional post players. Plum will back up Bird, who is still a premier point guard at 37 and guided the Seattle Storm to the WNBA championship this month.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Plum said. “I’ve been dreaming about being on this team since I started playing basketball. For me, it’s about trying to soak it all in and enjoy it.”
Staley said Plum has improved since participating in a Team USA training camp last year and will be asked to facilitate an efficient offense.
“We’ve been forever in search of a point guard,” Staley said. “Kelsey kept coming, kept sticking around. When you’re playing at this level, it’s more cerebral. It’s knowing who you’re playing with, knowing where they like the ball.”
The Americans open preliminary play against Senegal at 10 a.m. Saturday. Latvia and China round out their group.
Elimination play begins Sept. 28.