Bradley Central basketball great Rhyne Howard to represent US

AP photo by Wade Payne / Team USA guard Rhyne Howard brings the ball upcourt during an exhibition game against the University of Tennessee last Nov. 5 in Knoxville.
AP photo by Wade Payne / Team USA guard Rhyne Howard brings the ball upcourt during an exhibition game against the University of Tennessee last Nov. 5 in Knoxville.

Five-time Olympic champion Diana Taurasi was selected Sunday as part of the U.S. national women's basketball 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.

Howard was a Chattanooga-area prep star at Bradley Central before going on to the University of Kentucky — she was a three-time All-American for the Wildcats — and then becoming the No. 1 pick of the WNBA draft for the Atlanta Dream in 2022. She was the league's rookie of the year that season and has been selected as a WNBA All-Star twice.

Boston was the No. 1 draft pick last year, getting selected by the Indiana Fever and going on to be named an All-Star and rookie of the year.

This summer's Olympic roster could be different than the one playing in Belgium.

"We made that pretty clear," selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said. "Going there doesn't guarantee you're an Olympian."

Rizzotti said there's no specific timetable to announce the Olympic roster.

Former Olympians Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner and A'ja Wilson, were unavailable to play in Belgium this week. All three have a very good chance to be on the Olympic team.

The U.S. will play three games in Belgium this week, beginning with the host team 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 on 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 this summer's 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. Those challenges are what we are looking forward to," she said.

The Americans will also face Nigeria and Senegal in that tournament. The top two teams in that pool 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 Olympic field. France has also already qualified as the host nation.

The Americans will have another training camp at the NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament's Final Four in Cleveland in April before getting together right before the Olympics in Phoenix for a few days.

"We're going to let this Belgium trip play out and then have conversations in late February and in March to talk about the April camp," she said. "April is last opportunity to evaluate everyone."

Upcoming Events