Russia, tied for second in the FIBA World rankings with Australia, enters the Games with more uncertainty than usual. Unlike the last two Olympics in which the Russian team took third, this time there are new faces and the noticeable absence of some consistent veterans that aren’t in London, due to a multitude of reasons. Can the Russians continue their bronze domination? Or will an upstart be able to come calling and knock them off the podium altogether?
Russia | Group B
Olympic Games history: This is the fifth time Russia will lace them up in the Olympics, where they’ve finished with the bronze medal in the last two competitions. (The pre-Russia Soviet Union team also medaled in 1976, 1980 and 1988)
Place at 2010 FIBA World Championship: Seventh (7-2 overall record)
How they got here: 2011 EuroBasket champions
Names you might recognize: Rebecca Hammon. Yes, that one. Who plays with the Silver Stars and calls herself Becky. Hammon, a seven-time WNBA all-star selection, continues to be a force on the court in her 14th season in the league. She averaged 13.4 points and 3.7 assists per game in for the Silver Stars before the Olympic break. For her career she has amassed 5,381 points (including 1,991 made 3-pointers), 1,499 assists and 1,023 rebounds.
Name you won’t see: Svetlana Abrosimova, the former UConn player, current member of the Seattle Storm and two-time Olympian who was left off the preliminary list of 20 invited to training camp. She has played in six games so far this year with the Storm, averaging 4.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in 15 minutes a game. This is her 10th season to play in the WNBA. Instead of Abrosimova, there are five newcomers to the Olympic squad.
“Just the fact the way they did it…,” Abrosimova said. “It would be different if I did get a chance; I went to tryouts and I was worse than other players or I wasn’t healthy. That would be one thing, but because they didn’t give me a chance, they didn’t tell me anything, it was tough. I have been loyal to them since I was 17.
“I did have to change a lot of things in my life to make it work and nobody really appreciated that. …Last year we won the European championship, so if they would do it right after that I would understand. ‘OK, we want to get the new, younger players,’ but nobody changes teams before Olympics, so it was some kind of politics, I don’t know what is going on, but it is Russia so everything is possible.” –via the New Haven Register
Statistical leaders: Elena Danilochkina led the scoring charge in EuroBasket play en route to MVP honors, averaging 13.9 points on 50.9% shooting. Maria Stepanova was a stalwart in the post with 12.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and not quite one block per game. However, Stepanova sustained a knee injury in EuroLeague and is absent from the Olympics roster. As a team, Russia’s nine-game averages led the competition in points, rebounds and blocks per game. However, since qualifying and changing up the roster, Russia has gone 1-3 in Olympic tune ups – splitting a two-game series with Australia and losing to the Czech Republic twice.
Preliminary round schedule: vs. Canada (July 28), vs. Brazil (July 30), vs. Great Britain (Aug. 1), vs. Australia (Aug. 3), vs. France (Aug. 5)