Skylar Diggins

Skylar Diggins
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Skylar Diggins-Smith has the opportunity to fill USA Basketball’s need

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Skylar Diggins-Smith said making the U.S. Olympic team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is her second chance.

An ACL tear derailed her Rio 2016 hopes. That happened in a WNBA game on June 28, 2015.

Though Diggins-Smith was among 25 Olympic finalists named in January 2016, she didn’t return to game action until that May, four weeks after the 12-woman Olympic team was chosen.

The 27-year-old guard said she’s played for USA Basketball for 12 years, since before her standout Notre Dame career that led to her current stint with the Dallas Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).

“This is the most clear my mind has been,” with USA Basketball, Diggins-Smith said from training camp in Seattle on Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday exhibition against China at Key Arena (10 p.m. ET, usab.com/live).

Signs point to Diggins-Smith making her major international tournament debut at September’s FIBA World Cup, the quadrennial world championship event.

Though Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi‘s surprising returns crowd the backcourt, the other Olympic gold medalist guard, Lindsay Whalen, retired from the national team.

Diggins-Smith’s play last season, her first full campaign back from the ACL tear, boosts her case. She made the All-WNBA First Team.

She also made the first team in 2014. That year, Diggins-Smith was among the final cuts for the world championship team less than a week before the tournament.

“Every time I come to USA Basketball, I think you have a tendency to kind of overthink,” Diggins-Smith said Tuesday. “You just want to do the right thing, don’t really want to make mistakes. … You want to do the right thing, and you press a little bit.”

USA Basketball has stressed finding its next stalwart point guard following five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Dawn Staley (now the U.S. head coach) and the 37-year-old Bird, eyeing her fifth Olympics in 2020.

“Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen,” then-U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said after the Olympic team was named in April 2016. “You really start to look around and, you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered.”

“Obviously, there’s a need,” Staley said in February, listing point guards other than Bird at that camp.

The first name Staley mentioned was Diggins-Smith, for what it’s worth.

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MORE: Candace Parker finished with USA Basketball

Best women’s basketball players who haven’t made the Olympics

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Elena Delle DonneBrittney Griner and Breanna Stewart are arguably the three most accomplished players in the WNBA era yet to play in the Olympics.

(Yes, Stewart hasn’t played a pro game yet, but her NCAA record is unmatched)

That should all change in August, when the trio plus nine Americans who already own gold medals make up Team USA in Rio.

Who does that leave as the best players in the WNBA’s 19 seasons not to play at the Olympics?

Seven All-WNBA first-team players haven’t made an Olympic team:

1999, 2000 — Ticha Penicheiro
2001 — Merlakia Jones
2005, 2007 — Deanna Nolan
2006 — Katie Douglas
2008 — Sophia Young
2014 — Skylar Diggins
2015 — DeWanna Bonner

Penicheiro is Portuguese, and her national team never qualified for the Olympics.

Jones made the first three WNBA All-Star Games in 1999, 2000 and 2001, but she was not one of six alternates for the 2000 Olympic team.

Nolan and Douglas were on the 21-woman U.S. national team for 2007-08 but not the 12-woman roster in Beijing. In fact, Nolan tried out for the Russian Olympic team in 2008 but didn’t make it (unlike Becky Hammon).

Young was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and was among 21 finalists for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.

Diggins was one of the final four cuts for the 2014 World Championship team and was among 25 finalists for the Rio team but didn’t make it. She’s coming back from a June 28 torn ACL.

Bonner was not among the 25 finalists for the Rio Olympic team.

The WNBA players with the most All-Star nods not to make an Olympic team:

7 — Nykesha Sales (1999-2006)
6 — Taj McWilliams-Franklin (1999-2001, 2005-07)
5 — Katie Douglas (2006-07, ’09, ’11, ’14)
5 — Candice Dupree (2006-07, ’09, ’14-15)

Sales was one of six alternates for the 2000 Olympic team.

There’s no widespread mention of McWilliams-Franklin being in the running for an Olympic spot in 2000, 2004 or 2008. Her best WNBA seasons were in the middle of an Olympic cycle in 2005 and 2006.

Dupree made the 2014 World Championship team and was among 25 finalists for the Rio Olympic team.

MORE: Why Candace Parker was left off Olympic team

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Merlakia Jones did not make a WNBA All-Star team.