U.S. names team to play in pre-Olympic qualifying tournament

Five-time Olympic champion Diana Taurasi was selected Sunday as part of the U.S. national team that will play in a pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgium this week.

Taurasi is one of seven former Olympians on the roster. She's joined by Ariel Atkins, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Breanna Stewart and Jackie Young. Additionally, 2022 World Cup champions Kahleah Copper, Sabrina Ionescu and Alyssa Thomas will be part of the team.

Aliyah Boston and Rhyne Howard round out the squad. Both players will be making their debuts with the senior national team.

Former Olympians A'ja Wilson, Brittney Griner and Chelsea Gray are unavailable to play in Belgium this week.

The U.S., which has already qualified for the Olympics thanks to a gold-medal finish at the 2022 World Cup, will open play against host Belgium on Thursday. More than 14,000 tickets have been sold for that game, and coach Cheryl Reeve expects a loud crowd that will be rooting for the home team.

"We're expecting to go over there and be in a really tough environment," the U.S. coach said on Sunday at the end of a three-day training camp in New York. "There'll be 14,000 people rooting against us. It's obviously a really good team as we open it, open the tournament. I'm hoping to experience that adversity in a way that helps prepare us for the next step."

Reeve also feels potential adversity will help the team get ready for the Paris Olympics, where the U.S. will be trying for an eighth consecutive gold medal.

"It'll be illuminating as far as maybe what we need to do as a coaching staff. How we can better utilize players," she said. "Those challenges are what we are looking forward to."

The Americans will also face Nigeria and Senegal. The top two teams other than the Americans will qualify for the Paris Games.

There are three other qualifying tournaments in Brazil, China and Hungary being played at the same time to help round out the 12-team Olympics field. France also has already qualified as the host nation.

The Americans will have another training camp at the Final Four in Cleveland in April before getting together right before the Olympics in Phoenix for a few days.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.