Although it's tough to start practice on a hot July day some 6,000 feet above her usual training altitude, America's top women's college basketball player says she's thrilled to be in Colorado Springs.
"Every time I come [to Colorado], I'm impressed by the mountains," says Seimone Augustus, the Louisiana State University guard who swept the Associated Press, United States Basketball Writers Association and Naismith player of the year awards this year. "We don't have mountains in Baton Rouge, we have dirt hills."
Augustus arrived at the Olympic Training Center last week with a squad of fellow college-age players en route to Turkey. There, she will represent Team USA and square off against teams such as China and South Africa in the World University Games, comprised of student-athlete teams.
She goes by "'Mone" to many of her teammates, who know how dangerous she can be on the court. Augustus dominated the NCAA this year with an average of 20 points and almost 5 rebounds a game. She shot better than 50 percent from the field and 87 percent from the free throw line, taking LSU to the Final Four.
"We see each other year-round," Augustus says of her teammates. "We just have fun."
USA's basketball team last competed at the university level in 2001, when it won the gold. But international competition has stiffened since then, as evidenced by the men's Olympic team barely eking out the bronze in Australia last year.
"It's going to be a lot tougher," she says.
But with her huge smile and dangerous shot, Augustus is confident in winning and hopes to join the national team at the Olympics in Beijing in three years.
"If I'm able to," she says, "I'll be there."
-- Dan Wilcock
Photo by Rick Gorham