WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Two Washington Mystics players were named to the 2021 U.S. Women's Basketball Olympic team, USA basketball announced Monday.
Officials say Tina Charles and Ariel Atkins were named to Team USA and will compete in Tokyo this summer from July 26-Aug. 8 at the Saitama Super Arena.
This will be Charles' third Olympic appearance, but this one is in her first season with the Mystics after sitting out the 2020 season due to a medical exemption.
"Our mindset is just trying to get that gold," Charles said. "I don't think it matters who's in the gym or where we're playing. I think that's going to be the point of emphasis but it's definitely a difference not to be able to have your close family and friends and USA basketball not having a guest program."
The WNBA MVP is averaging a league-best and a career-high with 24.5 points per game and the second all-time record in double doubles. Charles has set numerous milestones this season, including being the first player in league history to total at least 30 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and three steals in a game.
"I am thankful to God for this opportunity to represent my country in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics," said Charles. "I don’t take my place on this team for granted. I look forward to the months ahead!"
Atkins will make her Olympic debut this summer. She was in the 2019-20 USA Basketball National Team expanded training program where Team USA posted a 17-1 record, and is currently averaging career-bests in points per game at 19.0, rebounds per game at 3.0, and field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and free-throw percentage.
Ariel Atkins #7 of the Washington Mystics dribbles the ball against the Phoenix Mercury during the first half at Entertainment & Sports Arena on May 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
"It's kind of like on your birthday. It's like everybody is just hitting you up. Yeah, my phone is kind of going crazy," Atkins said. "Definitely my parents. They were just screaming the entire time and my dad was asking me if I was saying what I was saying and I was like, ‘yeah!’"
Atkins was a first-round draft pick in 2018. In addition to helping lead Washington to back-to-back WNBA Finals appearances and a championship in 2019, she earned All-Defensive Team honors in each of her three WNBA seasons.
"I am very excited and honored to be a part of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team," said Atkins. "This is such a surreal moment and while I am extremely thankful, I honestly don’t think it has really hit me yet."
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FOX 5 also took to the streets to get reactions from fans about the big honor for the two Washington players.
"I mean I was going to root for the U.S. team 100 percent regardless, but it's just somebody to look for because honestly, I wouldn't know any of the players, but now I will," Bart Hutchinson said.
Many in the area are just excited to see the two women taking their game to the biggest arena in the world.
"I absolutely think that will be a wonderful platform for them and I’m very excited to watch. I wish them the best," Jaleyah Preston said.