Surprise after USA's decision to leave Caitlin Clark out of Paris 2024 Olympic squad. GETTY IMAGES

USA Basketball has named the twelve players who will take part in the Olympic Games. This year's top pick in the WNBA Draft was not on the list. The controversial decision has sparked widespread criticism from the basketball world in the USA. "I hope to be there in four years," Clark said upon hearing the news.

The USA basketball world is on fire. Nobody quite understands the decision made by USA Basketball officials to omit Caitlin Clark, the number one pick in the WNBA Draft, from the list of players who will represent the country at the 2024 Paris Olympics. The controversial omission came on Tuesday, when the 12-woman squad was named for the Games.

The decision not to include Clark began to surface before it was officially announced last week. It sparked protests from US sports commentators and on social media. Clark, who joined the Indiana Fever this year after an standout collegiate career, helped raise the profile of the women's game while breaking records for attendance and television viewership. Her scoring numbers also shattered records, so it seemed logical that she would join the team despite being only 22 years old.
However, with a roster that combined for 15 Olympic gold medals, 18 Women's World Cup titles and 55 WNBA All-Star appearances, USA Basketball opted for experience.

Caitlin Clark during her selection as the number one draft pick by Indiana Fever. GETTY IMAGES
Caitlin Clark during her selection as the number one draft pick by Indiana Fever. GETTY IMAGES

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

Veteran Diana Taurasi, who will be making her sixth consecutive appearance at the Olympics, will lead the gold medal favourites. She will be joined by nine players who have won Olympic gold medals. The decision has sparked controversy, but Caitlin Clark herself has tried to play it down. "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. I know it could have gone either way whether I was on the team or not. I'm going to be rooting for them to win gold. I was a kid who grew up watching the Olympics. It will be fun to watch," she said.

Her words were an attempt to douse the tension that has been in the air since last weekend. "Honestly, no disappointment. It just gives me something to work for, it's a dream. Hopefully I can be there one day. Hopefully in four years I can be there," she said.

Caitlin Clark broke all scoring records in college basketball in the USA. GETTY IMAGES
Caitlin Clark broke all scoring records in college basketball in the USA. GETTY IMAGES

The news broke this week, but Indiana coach Christie Sides revealed that Clark was informed of her Olympic exclusion on Friday, before the news broke. "What she said was, 'Hey, coach, you woke up a monster,' which I thought was great," Sides said.

The decision has divided the media, coaches and players, and local journalists are stirring up controversy. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan argued that leaving Clark off the team was a "huge missed opportunity". However, another faction believes Clark needs more experience before being selected.

Others say Clark has not done enough to merit inclusion. The team is chasing an eighth consecutive gold medal in Paris. Some commentators point to what Clark represents and say the decision is not wise at all. Undoubtedly the harshest comment came from ESPN commentator Stephen A Smith. "It was a stupid decision. Because it compromises your ultimate goal. Which is to elevate the WNBA brand. How can you be that stupid and not make that decision when the whole history of Team USA has been about marketing? It's stupid, period," Smith said.

USA women's basketball squad for the 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).