COLUMBIA - Three-time Olympic medalist and USA Basketball legend Dawn Staley believes there should be no overreaction to the continued dominance of her nation in women's basketball, or in respect of developing the women's game in general.
Following on from the senior women landing a fifth consecutive Olympic title in London last summer, Staley was in Klaipeda to witness USA Basketball continue their domination at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women, as they also claimed a fifth title in a row.
"I think other countries are actually dealing okay with the gap," said the former guard who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.
"I am very biased and I just think we have the tradition of playing the best basketball in the States, because we have the coaches and also the resources to lead the way with young players and so it is kind of inevitable we can be so successful.
"I think USA Basketball always puts a great team and product on the floor at every tournament, right across the board.
"I actually thought the coaching staff did a really tremendous job to prepare our team in such a short space of time and to get the gold medal (in Lithuania).
"Most importantly, the players have worked hard for their success and overall, things are looking very good for USA basketball women at all levels right now.
"Maybe it is better for women's basketball around the globe if the gap continues to close further," continued Staley.
"But then it is also better for USA too, because we want the toughest competition.
"And, with our backs to the wall, I think we would become even stronger and the gap would grow even wider.
"It's really a tough one, because as an American, I don't want that gap to narrow too much, because I want us to continue being the best and to dominate if we can."
Staley has seen a lot of changes in the women's game since she competed in essentially the same event, the World Championship for Junior Women, way back in 1989.
And despite some people eager to seek a revolution within the women's game, it's more gentle evolution which is required according to the winner of a combined five gold medals at the Olympics and FIBA World Championship for Women.
Staley insisted: "I think there are some things we need to look at within women's basketball, but we definitely don't need any wholesale changes in our game - only some tweaks.
"I think it's moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.
"We must not lose sight that women’s basketball is leaps and bounds ahead of the curve where we were decades ago when I started out as a player."
Staley will continue holding the reins as head coach at the University of South Carolina during the forthcoming NCAA campaign, where she will oversee her sixth full season at the helm of the Gamecocks.
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt