Kelsey Plum walked before she medaled — Stef Dolson talks winning 3X3 gold — Must-click women’s basketball links

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, July 28, 2021

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Going back to her days at University of Washington, watching Kelsey Plum play basketball meant more than just observing a player scoring points in volume and efficiency like the game had never seen.

It meant watching something joyful.

So it’s been a professional career missing much of that joy for Plum, for getting selected by a San Antonio team with internal disagreement over how to use her, followed by a move with that franchise to Las Vegas, where she didn’t solidify her role until 2019 — just in time to tear her Achilles, costing her all of 2020.

A player at Plum’s level should have experienced more triumph to this point. She’s due. And that’s what she accomplished on Wednesday in Tokyo.

So seeing her take a swig from a big bottle of champagne, clearly relishing a high point in her career — perhaps the highest, she reflected — felt like more than just an athlete earning a win.

“I can’t even really put into words,” Plum said. “It’s like a gold medal is just something that I have always wanted to accomplish. I think I’ve said this before. I think coming off the Achilles makes it extra sweet.”

A year ago to the day, Plum shared, she first walked again following her Achilles surgery.

Now she’s a gold medalist, another step toward fulfilling the professional career that she had every reason to expect would follow a collegiate career on par with anyone in the history of the game.

Before we get to the links, some quick notes from me out of USA-Nigeria 5×5:

1) A’ja Wilson was a difference-maker in that fourth quarter. There’s a version of events where USA was gassed and the Nigeria run, stopped when they got to within eight, gets even closer. But Wilson’s rebounding and defending, along with some late plays by Chelsea Gray and Sylvia Fowles, stemmed the tide.

2) Breanna Stewart made, by my count, a half-dozen plays in the first two quarters that helped Team USA build a lead they’d need before she scored a point. She is this team’s most important player because of her versatility, guarding on the perimeter, stretching defenses of rosters without bigs who can chase her. The significance of her range of skills is even bigger here than it is in the WNBA.

3) All of which reinforces why Elena Delle Donne is missed, of course. In a just world, both Stewart and Delle Donne would be playing for gold.

4) Early on, Diana Taurasi was isolated on the defensive end by Nigeria, and a blow-by from a guard quickly followed. Then Taurasi, seeing Team USA down 8-1 already, raced up the floor and nailed a needed three.

That’s Taurasi. It’s a when-to I’ve not seen from any other player, ever. We can debate all you want about who should or shouldn’t be on this roster. But in a year when there’s just not much glue connecting these players, it’ll take individual plays in big spots to win games. Who does that better than Diana Taurasi?

5) There are six newcomers on this team, a big reason why a team with experienced starting guards in Taurasi and Sue Bird still turned it over 25 times (!!!) against Nigeria. But seeing Stewart play in her second Olympics is to see someone entirely comfortable in this scenario. I’d have to think all the new blood will pay dividends for Dawn Staley in 2022, 2024 and beyond.

6) On the other hand, it sure doesn’t look like Wilson needed the experience. She just stars everywhere she goes.

This week in women’s basketball

Get to know Eve Fiala, 6’5 high school prospect.

An Adia Barnes business profile.

Again, Dan Hughes is greatly underappreciated, his impact is everywhere.

The Cheryl Reeve-Napheesa Collier story is just beginning.

Nneka Ogwumike speaks out about the tumultuous last month.

Tina Charles is a very different player than she was pre-pandemic.

Natasha Cloud is still doing the good work.

Get well soon, Elena.

Five at The IX: Stefanie Dolson, gold medal winner

Click on Stef enjoying an adult beverage to hear her reaction Wednesday from Tokyo

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Sarah Kellam @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.