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    Monday, July 15, 2024

    Connecticut Sun’s Alyssa Thomas named to U.S. Olympic Team

    Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun, back, is guarded by the Indiana Fever’s Katie Lou Samuelson, right, and Erica Wheeler during Monday night’s WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. On Tuesday, Thomas was one of 12 players named to the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team for the 2024 Games in Paris, the first such selection of Thomas’s career. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas, right, drives on Indiana Fever forward NaLyssa Smith in the first half of a WNBA game in Indianapolis on May 20. (Michael Conroy/AP Photo)
    Alyssa Thomas competes for the Unite States against China during the gold medal game at the women's basketball World Cup in Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 1, 2022. (Mark Baker/AP Photo)

    Mohegan — Throughout the day Tuesday, following the official announcement of the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team for the 2024 Games in Paris, USA Basketball posted videos on social media of the organization surprising the players in person with their Olympic jerseys.

    The video showing Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun had her calling her mom, Tina, to share the news.

    “I made the team,” Thomas said. “You can’t tell anybody.”

    “I am honored to be selected to the USA Basketball Women’s National Team and I am excited to compete at my first Olympics this summer,” Thomas said in a press release. “It’s a dream come true to have the opportunity to wear the USA jersey and I am looking forward to playing alongside the best players in the world on the biggest stage.”

    Thomas made the roster along with former UConn stars Diana Taurasi (Phoenix), Napheesa Collier (Minnesota) and Breanna Stewart (New York).

    Other members of the 12-player team are Kahleah Copper and Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury, Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young of the Las Vegas Aces, Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty and Jewell Loyd of the Seattle Storm.

    “I’m really excited for her. She’s put in the work, she’s done her due process, she’s taken advantage of her opportunity when it was given to her,” Sun head coach Stephanie White said following Monday’s 89-72 win over Indiana, the night prior to the announcement. “So if that happens for her, I would be really excited and proud for her.”

    “Just to have somebody in your locker room who’s an Olympian is nuts,” Sun teammate DiJonai Carrington said. “... She deserves it, she’s earned it, she’s worked her way back. I know last time the Olympics happened, she was rehabbing from her Achilles injury, so I know this is huge for her.”

    Carrington added of Thomas: “Even if she acts a little more nonchalant, I know how much she’s worked for this.”

    Thomas, a 6-foot-2 forward in her 11th season out of Maryland, is averaging 12.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game for the Sun (10-1), who will next play at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Chicago (New England Cable News).

    She was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, chosen by the New York Liberty and sent to the Sun in a draft-day trade. She is a four-time WNBA All-Star and was a WNBA first team selection last season, in which she was the runner-up in the league’s Most Valuable Player voting, receiving the most first-place votes.

    Nicknamed “The Engine,” Thomas has 12 career triple-doubles, more than anyone in history. She set a WNBA single-season record for assists last year (316), while leading the Sun to the league semifinals.

    Thomas was the three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year at Maryland and a two-time All-American.

    At the conclusion of the 2023 season, White paid Thomas the ultimate compliment, calling her “one of one.”

    Said White, who has coached at the collegiate and WNBA levels:

    “Like, I’ve been around a lot of great players, but what she’s able to do on a nightly basis ... There are great scorers, there are great rebounders, there are great facilitators and they all play a position. She does all that from a post position. She really is incredible. She had a year for the record books. She really is one of one.”

    In the USA Basketball video, Thomas arrived for what she thought was a meeting to find team president Jen Rizzotti with a red U.S. jersey bearing the No. 14.

    The WNBA will take a month-long break for the Olympics, which will hold its opening ceremony on July 26 in Paris.

    “It’s been a long time coming,” Thomas said. “It’s something you grow up watching. To be a part of it is ... yeah, I’m just super excited.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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