Former WNBA No. 1 draft pick switches from U.S. to Belarus

Lindsey Harding

Lindsey Harding, the 2007 WNBA Draft No. 1 overall pick, will be eligible to play for Belarus at EuroBasket in June as the nation tries to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Harding, born in Mobile, Ala., and raised in Houston, split the last two years playing for the Los Angeles Sparks and in a Turkish league.

Harding won the 2007 Naismith Player of the Year award while at Duke. She was a finalist to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic team but has never played for the U.S. at the World Championships or Olympics.

Harding is the only Naismith women’s winner since 1997 not to play for the U.S. at a Worlds or Olympics.

Harding wouldn’t be the first naturalized player to compete for another nation. Most notably, six-time WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon played for Russia at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

The Belarus women’s team finished sixth at the 2008 Olympics and fourth at the 2010 World Championships but failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics and was 10th at the 2014 World Championships.

The winner of EuroBasket, co-hosted by Hungary and Romania, will earn a berth in the Rio Olympics (the U.S. is the only nation already qualified). The favorites are Spain and France, which lost to the U.S. in the final and quarterfinals, respectively, at the 2014 World Championships.

The second-through-fifth place teams from EuroBasket will advance to a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in 2016.

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