Candace Parker unsure of 2020 Olympic run after Rio snub

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Dawn Staley was announced as the next U.S. women’s basketball head coach on March 10. Candace Parker said Tuesday that she learned of Staley’s hiring “a couple of days ago” from a Los Angeles Sparks teammate.

Parker was surprisingly left off the Olympic team more than 13 months ago. As the WNBA season gets going, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion has little to say about her future with the U.S. national team, if there is to be one at all.

Does she want to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at age 34?

“I don’t know,” Parker said before beating the New York Liberty on Tuesday night. “I haven’t thought about it.”

Parker was playing overseas for a Turkish club when Staley was announced as the successor to Geno Auriemma nearly three months ago.

Parker played collegiately at the University of Tennessee, the main rival to Auriemma’s Connecticut teams, but Parker suited up for Auriemma at the 2012 London Olympics and led the team in rebounds and blocks.

Auriemma was not part of the five-person selection committee that left Parker off the Rio Olympic team. Committee chair Carol Callan said the forward Parker played a position that was “the strength of” the U.S. team. Two of the three first-time Olympians in Rio, Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart, played the same position as Parker.

The selection committee for the 2020 Olympic cycle has not been announced. The next major tournament, the FIBA World Cup, is not until September 2018. Parker has plenty of time to weigh her options.

In the meantime, she praised Staley, both on social media after Staley won the NCAA title with South Carolina in April and on Monday night.

“I’m proud of her,” Parker said. “I think she deserves it [the U.S. head-coaching job]. She’s an outstanding coach winning a national championship.”

Parker is coming off an outstanding year since being left off the Rio team. She achieved her top career goal — a WNBA title, even greater than Olympic gold, she has said — with the Sparks last season, earning finals MVP.

Parker dedicated the campaign to her college coach, Pat Summitt, who died in June after battling Alzheimer’s for nearly five years.

After her first four games this season, Parker is the only WNBA player averaging 15 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.

Parker has said a primary motivation to play in Rio was that her daughter, Lailaa, then 7 years old, would be able to watch her at the Olympics and remember it.

After missing the Rio team, Parker spoke of being caught off-guard, mad and upset. She would not commit to hypothetically being an injury replacement if one of the 12 named players had to bow out. That situation did not arise.

Parker said last June that it was “too early to tell” if she would wear a USA jersey again.

Now, Parker has that WNBA title. Her next goal? Winning another WNBA title.

“You can luck up and do anything one time, not that you’re going to luck up and win a championship,” said Parker, who also won two NCAA titles at Tennessee. “There’s a lot of people that have one championship. I said it in college, all the greats had multiples. That’s kind of what I’m aiming for.”

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