Few were happier than Swin Cash to see a flight out of the country. She departed Monday to train with USA Basketball in Europe. The national team, led by Cash’s former Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, plans to play five teams in a tour that runs through Oct. 9.
“I can say this,” a drained Cash said at her Storm exit interview last week. “I’ve never been so happy to see a USA Basketball tour happening right now. It’s because I will be playing, I will be somewhere else and whoever is winning (in the WNBA playoffs) can win the championship here without me having to hear about anything. That’s my take on it.”
Minnesota swept Phoenix to win its first Western Conference championship in franchise history. The Lynx await the winner of the Indiana-Atlanta best-of-three Eastern Conference final to decide the overall WNBA champion. The Finals begin Oct. 2 in Minnesota.
Cash, a three-time WNBA champion, will be in Italy playing two games in Naples as part of a tournament hosted by Pallacanestro Napoli, from Sept. 30-Oct. 1. The national team will then travel to Valencia, Spain and face Ros Casares, current champion of the Spanish league, on Oct. 5. The Americans play Czech league champion ZVVZ-USK Prague in the Czech Republic on Oct. 8 and close out the tour in Hungary against Hungarian Cup and Hungarian Championship winners UNIQA-Euroleasing Sopron on Oct. 9.
Although Auriemma has stated numerous times Cash would be on any national team of his, he doesn’t pick the squad. The forward needs to continue to display her value, continuing her return to the Olympics after missing the 2008 Games due to back injury.
Cash, who turned 32 on Sept. 22, didn’t have the strongest offensive finish to her 2011 WNBA season, shooting a low 33.3 percent in three postseason games. And after being a three-point threat during the 2010 championship season (career-high 40.7 percent), Cash’s outside consistency dropped to 28.5 this summer.
Yet, even as the All-Star game MVP struggled with her shot, her defensive effort and leadership never wavered. Cash averaged a career-high 8.7 rebounds during the postseason and 6.9 during regular-season play.
Making the Olympic team is paramount to the 10-year vet. Cash declares herself healthy and is looking to play in China or a short season overseas to continue to give her body rest and make room for USA Basketball. The basketball competition for the London Games is July 28-Aug. 12, 2012, Cash helping the Americans qualify for a slot by winning the FIBA World Championship title in 2010.
“Not being there in 2008 was tough, sitting at home and being injured” said Cash, who commentated the Beijing Games stateside. “It was a blessing to be able to do the television part of it because I learned a lot but I’d rather be there.
“This is my last go-round in regards to USA Basketball. I think I can really say that at this point. I don’t know if I’ll be playing until 39, whatever the case may be. I can say that this is my time.”
USA Basketball isn’t hurting for wings. In fact, the talent pool is so deep, there are still grumbles about who’s left off the list. The team added quality first-timers in San Antonio forwards Sophia Young, who gained American citizenship on Sept. 2, and Danielle Adams. Young was born in St. Vincent, The Grenadines.
With the youth movement rising, Cash knows her window is shrinking to collect a second gold medal. But few of those younger players at her position know Auriemma’s schemes and the international game like Cash, a 6 foot 1 forward.
“There are a lot of young, great players that are coming up that after London can be their opportunity,” she said. “But right now, I feel like this is my opportunity and I’ll take advantage of it.”
Storm teammate Sue Bird will not make the European trip. She’s still deciding whether to undergo hip surgery to repair a slight labral tear in her left hip. Kent’s Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky) wasn’t chosen for the tour after training with USA Basketball in May in Las Vegas.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Storm F Swin Cash pictured right in her national team uniform by USA Basketball