Bria Hartley could have been an American point guard. Now she plays for France

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The U.S. women’s basketball program has spent much of the past decade searching for its next playmaker – one to succeed three of its greatest leaders – Teresa Edwards in the 80s and 90s, Dawn Staley in the early 2000s and Sue Bird since.

Bria Hartley could have been that player. At the University of Connecticut (where Bird also played), Hartley started and won national titles her last two seasons in 2013 and 2014. She was on the WNBA rookie squad in 2014.

Also in 2014, Hartley was the second youngest of 27 players on the World Championship training camp roster. She didn’t end up being part of the 12-women’s world team. She was not among the 25 Olympic team finalists named in January 2016.

Hartley considered his options. She knew of an opportunity to play for France, given that one of her grandmothers is French. Getting a French passport might be useful for playing in European leagues, where salaries were known to be exponentially higher than WNBA’s, but there could be roster limits for US players.

And then there are the Olympics. The United States is the toughest team to form, winning all Olympic titles dating back to 1996.

In the end, Hartley chose to become the fourth U.S. point guard to seek and receive an international transfer in as many Olympic cycles.

Becky Hammon was the most famous, winning a bronze medal for Russia in 2008. It was followed by Lindsey Harding, left for Belarus in 2015. And Courtney Vandersloot, who became a Hungarian citizen after missing the Rio Olympic team.

Hartley’s case is different because of the French origin of his family. When asked why she asked for the nationality change, Hartley pointed out this lineage and that she knew the option years before going pro.

Hartley said she received her French passport in February 2016. She was hoping to play for France at the Rio Olympics. She still needed approval from USA Basketball and FIBA, which only arrived in 2017 and 2018.

USA Basketball registered a request from the French federation for Hartley’s transfer in May 2016, the month after the announcement of the US Olympic team and two months before the announcement of the French Olympic team.

USA Basketball did not immediately approve the request for several reasons. USA Basketball had not had the opportunity to discuss the matter with Hartley. He still viewed Hartley as a prospect at the national team level, and in a position of need. The United States could face 2012 Olympic silver medalist France in the Olympic round of 16 in Rio.

“With Sue and D [Diana Taurasi] as they got older they just didn’t know what they were going to do as a playmaker, ”Hartley said. “I think they just kept their options open.”

Director of the US National Team Carol Callan spoke with Hartley during her appearance in the 2017 NCAA Women’s Finals. Hartley has confirmed her intention to play for France.

“We want to make sure they really want to do it [transfer]”Said Callan,” because once you go there, you can’t go back.

“Usually we don’t necessarily want to prevent someone from playing for another country if that’s what they want to do, other than right before the Olympics. If the demand had arrived even after the Olympics, it would have been easier to manage.

The French federation contacted USA Basketball later in 2017 with the follow-up transfer request. Hartley had the approval of both national federations.

Then he went to FIBA. Hartley said the international federation initially rejected the request and requested further evidence of his French connection.

“Cases relating to a change in a player’s national status require a careful study of the player’s ties to the country he wishes to represent, which often go beyond the mere presentation of a passport,” wrote an official. of FIBA ​​in an email. “This is particularly the case when a player has two nationalities and is invited to present concrete links with a given country.”

Hartley also missed the 2018 FIBA ​​World Cup in the exam.

“If I had gotten my passport when I was younger, if I had started this process when I was younger, it would have been a lot easier,” said Hartley, who had a son. Bryson in January 2017.

In October 2018, two weeks after the end of the World Cup, the French federation announced that Hartley had become eligible for its national team. She played at the 2019 European Championships (EuroBasket) and helped France clinch a silver medal, placing the team second in the standings.

There have been criticisms. Including followers of his new program.

“They’re like, it’s an American playing for the France team,” Hartley said. “She’s not really French and stuff like that, so I know I took care of that. But, for me, I have the impression of having French blood. I just didn’t grow up [in France]. »

France is ranked fifth in the world. The Olympic groups have yet to be defined, but it is possible that Hartley could face the United States in Tokyo next summer.

She could watch Bird, the UConn Husky comrade she was a candidate for to succeed in the US program. Or another leader who establishes himself over the next year as next in line. Perhaps Sabrina Ionescu.

Hartley said it would be an exciting competition. She doesn’t feel different wearing the red, white and blue of another country.

“I have always been very proud of my French heritage,” she said. “Especially growing up in New York, fair skinned, a lot of people are like, are you Spanish or something like that?” I always said no, I am French.

PLUS: How the Olympic and Paralympic Games have intersected over time

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