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McKeesport's Cash ready for final Olympics venture

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Elaine Thompson | AP
Swin Cash,a McKeesport native, will represent the U.S. in the 2012 London Olympics.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Meredith Qualls
Sunday, July 22, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

If anybody has seen the transformation of Swin Cash, it's Geno Auriemma.

“I remember going to her high school when she was a senior and seeing what she could become, and now I'm coaching the finished product,” said Auriemma, the Connecticut women's basketball coach and head coach of the U.S. Olympic women's team.

A decade after her college career and eight years after her first Olympic performance, Cash, a 6-foot-2 forward from McKeesport, will compete at the 2012 London Games. Cash, who played for the Huskies from 1998-2002, is one of six former UConn players on the U.S. roster.

“What I coached back in college and what I coached now are two different people,” Auriemma said. “You watch her now, and it's a complete package, a complete woman, from a basketball standpoint, off the court and on the court.”

Cash, 32, also competed in the 2004 Olympics. She decided this will be her last.

“I'm able to dictate that,” she said, “and it feels really good to take ownership and say, ‘Hey, this time I'm going out with a bang.' ”

In 2004, Cash helped the U.S. go unbeaten in Athens for its third consecutive gold medal. Two years later, she suffered a herniated disk in her lower back, which led to her missing the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

“When your game is based on quickness and the intensity level that Swin plays at, that's very difficult,” Auriemma said. “It really tested her character, her toughness, her resilience. For the first time in her life, I think Swin had to work at doing the things that used to come easier to her.”

In her Olympic return, Cash, a 10-year WNBA veteran who plays for the Chicago Sky, hopes to benefit from her experience.

“When we came in, we were really young and down at the bottom of the totem pole, but now we have to be able to help lead our team to a gold medal,” said three-time Olympian Tamika Catchings, 32, who premiered with Cash in the 2004 Games.

For Cash and other WNBA players, practice time with the U.S. team will be limited. They believe they can compensate with versatility, leadership and knowing Auriemma's system.

“With the dynamic of our team, I'm able to play multiple positions, and I think that's going to be an asset,” Cash said.

The U.S. roster includes Cash's former UConn teammates, Sue Bird, Ashja Jones and Diana Taurasi, and recent stars Tina Charles and Maya Moore.

“It's like having six assistant coaches,” Auriemma said.

“It's going to be a really great time for me,” Cash said. “It's probably going to be one of the best experiences of my career.”

Meredith Qualls is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5637 or mqualls@tribweb.com.

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