Hammon to play with Russia at OlympicsEdit
April 9, 2008
WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon will play for Russia at the Beijing Olympics.
Hammon said Tuesday in a phone interview with the AP that she signed with the Russian national team Monday, about two weeks after getting her Russian passport.
The 31-year-old point guard for San Antonio Silver Stars also plays professionally in Russia. But she is not among the pool of 29 U.S. players hoping to make the 12-player Olympic roster.
"I'm going where they really want me and where I have an opportunity to win a medal," said Hammon, a nine-year WNBA veteran.
The South Dakota native also signed a three-year extension with the Russian pro team CSKA.
She said she began the passport application process last year -- her first with CSKA. Many WNBA stars who play overseas have a second passport -- Diana Taurasi has an Italian passport; Sue Bird has an Israeli one -- so they're not counted as Americans on the team's roster.
The 5-foot-6 Hammon averaged 18.8 points and 5.0 assists last season for the Silver Stars.
She said she will head to Russia in late July after the WNBA shuts its season down for the Olympics. The USA and Russia may not meet during the Olympics, but the teams play Aug. 4 in the FIBA Diamond Ball Tournament, a tuneup for Beijing.
"It might be a little awkward at first," Hammon said. "But when the ball goes up, you just play the game."
Hammon said she struggled to come to the decision to play for Russia as she ran hundreds of scenarios through her mind, like marching under the Russian flag in the parade of nations during opening ceremonies. But she became more comfortable with the idea after extensive conversations with her parents, Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes and her agent, [[Mike Cound].
Cound said under the rules of the Russian pro league Hammon was eligible for an international passport and to become a naturalized citizen. And since she had not played for the USA, or any other country, in a major FIBA-sanctioned international competition, she is able to play for Russia in the Olympics.
"If I thought there was any indication that I could play with USA Basketball, I probably wouldn't have done it," she said. "I feel good (about the decision). If you had asked me a couple of months ago I would have had mixed emotions.
"But my options were to sit on my couch and watch the Olympics, or play in the Olympics. It made it an easy decision."