The gold medal is tangible proof that something special happened, but Connecticut Sun guard Layshia Clarendon is still wrapping her arms around what happened last Sunday in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, where she helped the USA win the FIBA World Cup with a 73-56 win over Australia.
“It was awesome,” said Clarendon, now back in the United States. “I’m still kind of soaking it in. I think you need a little time to be removed to understand how it is going to affect you. Being around that high level of players is really going to have a positive impact on my career, but I’m still trying to absorb it.”
Clarendon and Sun teammate Morgan Tuck joined the USA Women’s World Cup Team when training camp opened in Columbia, South Carolina back on September 3. That was the start of an intensely competitive experience for Clarendon, who found herself battling every day to preserve a spot on the roster.
“I definitely tried to soak up every moment I was there,” she said. “It was a really competitive and tough experience. I think I did a good job of trying to stay in the moment. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy all the emotions that come with it – the pressure, the fear, the excitement.”
Ultimately, Clarendon did not find out she had officially made the team until September 19, shortly before the start of the FIBA World Cup. By that time, the USA had played exhibition games in Bridgeport and Washington, D.C. before traveling to Antibes, France for a three-game exhibition tournament.
“In general, it’s a long way to go to find out you made the team,” Clarendon said with a laugh. “You pack for a month and hope you’re gone for a month.”
The intensity of the experience gave Clarendon a better understanding of just how hard the veterans on the USA Women’s team have worked.
“I think one, you appreciate what it takes to get to this level and sustain at this level,” Clarendon said. “That was a big takeaway. Just appreciate what all the people performing have done at such a high level for so many years.”
Ultimately, Clarendon knows she will reap benefits from being a part of the USA’s FIBA World Cup run.
“I think it’s going to go a long way to helping my self-confidence,” she said.