Sue Bird is in a class by herself.
She became the first American player to make four world championship teams when USA Basketball announced the roster on Tuesday. Bird won gold medals in 2002 and 2010 and a bronze medal in 2006.
“It just means I’ve been playing a lot of years,” Bird said last week before the team left for its overseas exhibitions. “We have a lot of other veterans in this group and I’m sure we’ll have a good mix of experience and youth.”
U.S. coach Geno Auriemma is impressed by Bird’s longevity after playing for him at Connecticut.
“I think it’s a testament to Sue,” he said. “That’s a period of 12 years. She played right after graduating college. It is amazing that her level of play has been that consistent for that many years at a position that is not easy to play. That’s kind of who she is. She is very steady, very even keeled, unbelievably talented and wins. The players trust her, and they have confidence in her.”
Joining her on the final roster were veterans Diana Taurasi, Candice Dupree, Tina Charles, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus. All seven of them have world championship experience, with Augustus playing on the 2006 team and the other six on the 2010 team that won a gold medal in the Czech Republic.
Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, Odyssey Sims and Breanna Stewart will make their first appearance at the world championship, which begins Saturday in Istanbul.
“I think from what I can see, we’ve got a little bit of everything,” Auriemma said. “We still have, obviously, some things that we have to work on. Brittney is going to get here, and this will be her first time through this. Odyssey’s first time. Breanna’s first time. Nneka’s first time. That’s a lot of new faces.”
Griner, who missed all of the U.S. team’s training camp while she was recovering from a retinal injury suffered in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals, will join the squad in Istanbul on Wednesday. She got clearance from her doctor this week to play.
Stewart, a junior at UConn, is the third straight college player to make the U.S. roster at worlds. Moore played in 2010 and Candace Parker in 2006.
The Americans beat the Czech Republic 76-41 Tuesday in Prague, finishing 4-1 in exhibition games leading up to the worlds.
The U.S. will open against China on Saturday before facing Serbia on Sunday. The Americans close out pool play against Angola on Sept. 30. The final is Oct. 5.