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Seattle's Bird, Teammates Take The Court In Rio With Confidence Running High

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Portal Brasil 2016
File photo of Arena da Juventude, or Youth Arena, the venue for basketball at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Razil.

Seattle Storm teammates Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart hit the court this weekend for Team USA’s first game in the Summer Olympics basketball tournament. Stewart is an Olympic rookie while Bird is gunning for her fourth consecutive gold medal.

Bird likes her team’s prospects, which start with a game against China on Sunday.

“This group has a really good mix of first timers, second, third and fourth,” she said. “It actually gets split up into threes, which none of us knew until somebody pointed it out yesterday. It’s great. There’s experience up here and then there’s wide-eyed down there and everything in between.”

The latest edition of the U.S. men’s “Dream Team” also sees its first action this weekend. The men’s tournament features nearly a whole team’s worth of alumni of Northwest colleges, but they’re scattered among different squads.

Former Washington State University standout Klay Thompson starts for Team USA. The Lithuanian team has Portland-born, former Gonzaga forward Domantas Sabonis. And WSU’s Aron Baynes and Brock Motum play for Australia.

On the women’s side, fans of the WNBA’s Storm can also cheer for Ramu Tokashiki who suits up for Japan this month. And former Kennewick (Washington) High School star and dual-national Leilani Mitchell is playing for her mother’s homeland, Australia.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.