Clark left off US Olympic basketball squad

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Caitlin Clark;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Caitlin Clark</a> playing for the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Indiana Fever;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Indiana Fever</a> in the WNBA (ANGELA WEISS)

USA Basketball chiefs confirmed Caitlin Clark's controversial omission from the Paris Olympics on Tuesday after naming a 12-strong squad for the games.

The decision not to take Clark, the top pick in April's WNBA draft, to Paris, emerged in news reports last weekend, triggering an outcry among US sports pundits and social media.

The 22-year-old Indiana Fever star entered the WNBA this season after a trailblazing college career that helped boost the profile of women's sport while smashing attendance and viewing records.

The clamor for Clark's inclusion in the Olympic squad met with resistance from USA Basketball officials, who have instead opted for experience with a roster that boasts a combined 15 Olympic gold medals, 18 Women's World Cup titles and 55 WNBA All-Star appearances.

"We have selected a team that we are confident will represent our country to the highest standard in Paris," USA Basketball Women's National Team Committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti said in a statement, describing the selection process as "challenging and competitive."

The squad will be spearheaded by veteran Diana Taurasi, who will make a sixth straight Olympic appearance, along with nine players who have already won an Olympic gold medal.

However the selection announcement has been eclipsed by the furor over Clark's omission, a decision that has divided basketball and sports commentators.

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan argued that leaving Clark off the team was a "huge missed opportunity" to boost the profile of women's basketball.

Others say Clark has not done enough to merit inclusion in the team, which is chasing an eighth straight gold medal in Paris.

But ESPN pundit Stephen A. Smith was scathing of the decision, acknowledging that while Clark was not necessarily among the best 12 players in the WNBA, not taking her to Paris was a blunder for a sport trying to build its profile.

"This is about what I will personally label 'The Idiocy of Team USA Women's Basketball'," Smith fumed. "How dare you make this decision. It's stupid.

"It was a stupid decision. Because it compromises what your ultimate goal is, which is to elevate the WNBA brand. How could you be that idiotic and not make that call, when throughout history, Team USA has been, in part, about marketing? It's dumb, period."

Clark meanwhile has done everything to damp down the controversy, insisting in remarks to reporters she was not disappointed to miss out.

"I'm excited for the girls that are on the team," Clark said on Sunday. "I know it's the most competitive team in the world and I know it could have gone either way -- me being on the team or me not being on the team. I'm going to be rooting them on to win gold. I was a kid that grew up watching the Olympics, so it will be fun to watch them.

"Honestly, no disappointment. It just gives me something to work for; it's a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there.

"I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

Indiana coach Christie Sides, meanwhile revealed that Clark had been informed of the Olympic omission on Friday before news of the decision broke.

"The thing she said was, 'Hey, Coach, they woke a monster,' which I thought was awesome," Sides said.

"She's young, she's going to have so many opportunities in the future."

USA women's basketball squad for 2024 Olympics: Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx), Kahleah Copper (Phoenix Mercury), Chelsea Gray (Las Vegas Aces), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Sabrina Ionescu (New York Liberty), Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces), Breanna Stewart (New York Liberty), Alyssa Thomas (Connecticut Sun), A'ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces) and Jackie Young (Las Vegas Aces)