(David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)
“Honestly, when I heard [that I made the team] things were kind of a blur”, said Chelsea Gray at Team USA’s press conference. A fitting statement to the feeling one gets when they realize they will be an Olympian.
Gray, alongside fellow Aces A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage, will all be heading to Tokyo later this summer, to compete in the women’s basketball event. Cambage will be representing Team Australia while Wilson and Gray were named to Team USA just yesterday.
It’s safe to say that both Wilson and Gray are excited about taking their chemistry overseas.
“We’ve been excited ever since we got the call. We’re going on the same flight, then coming back, like we’re going together.”, Gray said when asked if she had spoken to Wilson about the announcement. “It’s been a great experience to have those conversations and be excited about it.”
“It’s a huge deal to have her alongside myself,” Wilson said happily. “To represent Las Vegas as a whole, as a franchise on this big stage is going to be fun. I thought I was going to get a break from [Chelsea] but now it’s times three.”
Gray, who has enjoyed a great season with the Aces thus far, will be stepping onto the Olympic stage for the first time, a sentiment she won’t soon forget.
“Do you know how many people are praying to wear Team USA’s jersey?’’ Gray asked comically. “So to be able to go there and experience it, I’m just looking forward to it.”
A Duke alumna, Gray is also the first ever women’s basketball player from the program to be named to an Olympic roster.
“We’ve had so many great players and that just speaks volumes to being selected and what I’ve done up to this point. It’s an honour to represent that university and the players that have come before me.” Gray said after being asked about her alma mater. “I just got the chills knowing that, I had no idea that was the case.”
(The Chronicle, Duke University)
Gray made sure to emphasize that she doesn’t want to overthink her Olympic experience. “Just getting there and experiencing it and embracing it. Just letting the Olympics take control.” said Gray, when I asked her about what she’s looking forward to most. “I’m not really sure what to expect, it’s the first one so I’m just excited to go and I’m gonna be juiced from the time we all get together until the time it’s done.”
“We’re coming together for the common goal, so whatever that looks like, whatever that means, that’s what it’s all about.”
Wilson, on the other hand, has had experience with Team USA prior to Tokyo, representing her country at the 2018 FIBA World Cup en route to capturing a gold medal.
“That event gave us a chance to compete against other teams and mesh together and learn the system under coach [Dawn] Staley but who knows, teams could be faster, stronger, better in Tokyo.”
(South Carolina Athletics)
The reigning league MVP was also asked about what the Olympics could do for women’s sports as a whole, as well as social justice.
“I’m just so hopeful and I’m excited about it because this is the biggest stage ever.” said Wilson when asked about what the Olympics could do for women’s sports as a whole. “I know we’re going to take care of business but the Olympics brings all eyes on you. I know we’re going to use the attention in the right way and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
She shared an identical mindset when she was asked about her platform and social justice, a common theme that we’ve continued to see throughout the entire WNBA.
“I’m going to continue using my voice the way I’ve used it in the WNBA. The platform I have has gotten even bigger now that I’m an Olympian so I’m just going to continue using my platform to speak out on what I think is right and what I believe in.”
Wilson finished up her press conference with a singular quote that describes her game perfectly: “I’m not one to back away if the lights are a little brighter or if the stage is a little bigger.” Something that Team USA is undoubtedly looking forward to seeing on the hardwood in Tokyo.
Liz Cambage is the most experienced Ace heading overseas, being named to her third Olympic roster with Team Australia. And, according to Wilson, the trash talk amongst the teammates has already begun.
“I overheard Liz (Cambage) talking in the dressing room about winning a gold medal. I was like ‘Hm. Alright.’”
Overall, having Liz Cambage, Chelsea Gray, and A’ja Wilson representing the Aces at the Olympics is an honor the city of Las Vegas should hold high. This is an honor bestowed upon the few, and basketball fans should be proud to see their players compete on the Olympic stage.
Author’s note: Aces center JiSu Park could also be named to Team South Korea in the coming weeks.
For more of Josh’s WNBA/NWHL coverage, check out their author page, follow him on Twitter, and check out his website.