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Former UConn Stars Rush from WNBA to U.S. National Team

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By DOUG FEINBERG,  AP Basketball Writer

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic (AP) _ It’s been a whirlwind few days for Sue Bird and Swin Cash.

The former UConn stars barely had time to enjoy leading the Seattle Storm to the WNBA championship last Thursday, when they finished off a three-game sweep of Atlanta, before they boarded a plan for the Czech Republic, where they will try to lead the U.S. team to world championship gold.

The pair began their journey with a trip from Atlanta to Seattle to celebrate their title and wrap up some loose ends. Cash rents an apartment in Seattle during the season and had to quickly prepare 15 boxes to ship home for the offseason.

“It’s been a little bit of a blur, but an enjoyable one,” Bird said. “I think once I started packing, that’s when I really
started to get into USA Basketball mode.”

Once everything was taken care of at home, the dynamic duo began a 21-hour journey to the Czech Republic to join their U.S. teammates early Monday morning. They caught a 6 a.m. flight from Seattle to New York before connecting for an 8-hour trip to Prague.

“It’s definitely been a long day,” Bird said during a layover at Ruzyne-Prague Airport, where she was waiting for the final leg of the trip, a 1-hour flight to Ostrava.

It could have been worse had the WNBA finals gone a full five games, which would have put the finale on Tuesday in Seattle and made travel to the tournament even more hectic.

“We knew what we signed up for when we joined USA Basketball,” said Bird, a member of the bronze medal team from the 2006 World Championship team, which lost to Russia in the semifinals.

“We know what’s at stake here.”

Sleep wasn’t the biggest concern for the two stars, who missed all of the U.S. team’s training camp that started Sept. 4 in Washington, D.C. Instead, it was making sure their bags made all the connections to the Czech Republic.

“Lauren (Jackson) flew yesterday to join her team (Australia) and her bags didn’t make it when she arrived,” Bird said of her Seattle Storm teammate.

Cash and Bird both let out big smiles when they saw their red, white, and blue bags appear on the conveyor belt in Ostrava. They grabbed them and hopped into a waiting car to join their team at the hotel, before heading to a practice just a few minutes later.

“It’s been a whirlwind few days,”  Cash said, “but I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

Despite the jet lag and hours spent traveling, getting out on the court wasn’t bad: “It was normal, I got my legs underneath me a little bit,”  Cash said. ” We just really focused on getting some chemistry on the offensive end and that was important.”

Even though his two former UConn stars were still tired from the long day, U.S. coach Geno Auriemma and the rest of the squad were happy to have them aboard. After all, Dream star Angel McCoughtry and Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors didn’t arrive until after practice.

“It’s always good to add two players with that kind of experience,”  Auriemma said. “It gives everybody a sense of
confidence too when Sue’s on the floor. It’s been awhile for us waiting for them, but I’m glad they’re here.”

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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