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US Women's Basketball Team Heads to Athens in Quest for 3rd Gold Medal - 2004-07-28


American basketball player Dawn Staley and the rest of the United States women's team is looking for a third Olympic gold medal in as many tries when they take the court in Athens.

Dawn Staley has been playing basketball most of her life, in high school, college, as a professional and on the U.S. national team. Her playing days on the national team could be coming to an end as the 34-year-old will be making her third and possibly last trip to the Olympic games.

"I am very excited about the games in Athens," she said. "I am truly honored that I'm selected once again to represent our country, especially with the times. And for me, it's going to be special because I believe this is going to be my last one."

Dawn Staley started playing basketball with a group of boys in her north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania neighborhood to stay out of trouble and then played basketball in high school.

She went on to be a three-time collegiate All-American while playing for the University of Virginia. During her four years there, the 1.68-meter guard helped Virginia to 110 wins against 21 losses and four collegiate national championship tournament appearances. She was national player of the year in 1991 and 1992 and when she finished her college career, Virginia retired her number 24.

After college, Staley played with a number of professional teams in France, Italy, Brazil and Spain. She returned to the United States when the American Basketball League formed in 1996 and played for the two seasons the league existed. When it folded, she joined the rival Women's National Basketball Association, playing for the Charlotte Sting. She was selected for three WNBA all-star teams.

Throughout her professional career, Staley has also competed on the U.S. national team. She won a gold medal with team USA at the 1994 Goodwill Games and was also a part of that year's bronze medal world championship team.

She was on the U.S. team that won 60 straight games in 1995-1996 en route to winning the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She and the U.S. women repeated as basketball gold medalists at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Also in 2000, Staley was hired as head coach for the women's basketball team at Temple University in Philadelphia.

In her second season there, she guided the school to the Atlantic 10 conference title and its first national collegiate tournament appearance in 12 years. Staley also led Temple to the national collegiate tournament this past season and was named conference coach of the year.

Since becoming head coach at Temple, Staley still makes time to play with the national team. She helped the United States to a nine to nothing record in winning the 2002 world basketball championship.

Despite her coaching commitments, playing basketball and busy schedule helping others learn the game, Staley does not mind her lack of social time.

"I like to share my experiences with so many age groups, whether that is little girls, little boys to adults," she said. "I think I have a gift in that my passion for playing, my passion for people really has put my social life on the back burner."

The 34-year-old is just as busy off the basketball court. She started the Dawn Staley Foundation in 1996 which sponsors after-school programs, summer leagues and fund-raising activities for inner-city youths. The foundation also sponsors a three-hour program focusing on academics and athletics. Her work with this foundation earned Staley the 1999 WNBA Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.

Staley is also working on a book series aimed at 12 to 14-year-old girls about subjects ranging from challenges faced by that age group with self-esteem to how she got started playing sports.

Looking ahead to Athens, Dawn Staley believes that Australia, Russia and Brazil will be tough competition in the Olympic tournament.

"I think Australia has probably made the biggest improvement," said Staley. "I think the Sydney games really helped them out. I think the fact that they do have a women's professional league there as well as some of their players are internationally known, so that has helped close the gap."

With the possibility of leaving the national team after the Olympics, Staley is looking forward to what the younger players will do for the United States and believes they will continue to play well on the international level.

"I truly believe that we have the talent to be very successful in international play from here on out. I do," she said. "[New team members like] Sue Bird, you got Diana Taurasi, you've got some of the younger players who now will get an understanding of what it is to be successful."

Before leaving the winning up to the younger players, Dawn Staley hopes to go three-for-three in Olympic competition and bring home another gold with the U.S. women's basketball team.

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