USA - Turkey 2014 hopefuls set to step out at WNBA All-Star Game
PHOENIX (WNBA/FIBA World Championship for Women) - No fewer than 17 players hoping to make it onto the final USA roster for the FIBA World Championship for Women in Turkey will participate in the prestigious WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday.
Fans attending the mid-season classic at the USA Airways Center in Phoenix will also be reminded of the thrilling action which will
unfold in Turkey, via a FIBA World Championship for Women promotion.
Every single player on the Western Conference All-Stars team are members of the 2014-16 pool of players which USA play-caller Geno Auriemma will choose from, while they will also be coached in Saturday's game by his assistant, Cheryl Reeve.
Leading the charge will be Maya Moore who is being touted as the leading contender for MVP after a stellar season under Reeve with the Minnesota Lynx, where she is leading the league in scoring with 23.7 points per game.
It was little surprise therefore that Moore topped the voting from fans in the race to get a starting place. She is joined by her club team-mates and backcourt duo Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus.
There is little doubt that while Moore has been on fire from an individual standpoint, no team is as hot as the Phoenix Mercury right now and they have extended their unbeaten streak to a superb 11 games.
Diana Taurasi has been central to that run of form and she is likely to be one of the main figures in the showpiece game and no doubt for the USA in Istanbul too. The guard lines up alongside Mercury colleagues Candice Dupree and Brittney Griner, with fans hoping the latter might throw down a dunk or two.
There will also be huge attention as always on Skylar Diggins. She will make her All-Star debut and the Tulsa Shock are also represented by forward Glory Johnson. The San Antonio Stars flag is flown by Danielle Robinson and the Los Angeles Sparks supporters will be cheering Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike.
The former will inevitably be one of the biggest stars in Turkey, while Ogwumike will make history at the All-Star Game as it will be the maiden appearance of siblings, with her sister Chiney of the Connecticut Sun being one of the Eastern Conference All-Stars, coached by Michael Cooper.
The East has six players on the extended USA national team list, including former MVP Tina Charles who will play in Istanbul next season with Fenerbahce, a club her fellow New York Liberty team-mate Cappie Pondexter knows well.
Veteran Tamika Catchings is bidding for a fourth appearance at the FIBA World Championship for Women and represents the Indiana Fever, as does Briann January who debuts and is hoping for a first taste of senior action with the USA.
The small forward made her debut at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women and has starred with Fenerbahce ever since, so is relishing the prospect of stepping out in Turkey for her country. She has been in superb form in the WNBA, averaging 20 points per game and leading the way in steals.
The other members of the Eastern Conference All-Stars are players who won't be pulling on a USA vest in the shape of Jessica Breland of Chicago, Katie Douglas of Connecticut, Shoni Schimmel of Atlanta and her fellow Dream standout Erika Souza, who is destined to be a star for the Brazilian national team in Turkey.
Souza will again carry the bulk of her nation's hopes when the action gets underway in Ankara against Czech Republic, Japan and Spain. She has harvested an impressive 9.7 rebounds per game this season which is the joint second-best of the campaign.