KNOXVILLE, Tennesse — Diana Taurasi is settling into a brand new function with USA Basketball.
She is making an attempt to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster for the 2024 Paris Video games, which might be her sixth. However this one looks like her first.
Ignore that she turns 42 earlier than the Paris Video games even begin subsequent July. Or that the veteran guard is chasing an opportunity at Olympic historical past, looking for to change into the primary to win six straight gold medals in basketball.
“I’m in a special place the place you understand within the final couple of them I did it with my friends, and now I’m doing it with B (Betnijah Laney) and you understand, gamers that I’m not that aware of,” Taurasi stated Sunday evening after a 95-59 exhibition win over No. 11 Tennessee.
This time round, there’s no Sue Chook as they made historical past on the 2021 Tokyo Video games profitable a fifth straight gold. That hit Taurasi on Tuesday morning when she wakened in Atlanta for the primary day of a three-day coaching camp, reaching for her cellphone to textual content Chook to go get espresso.
“It was a stark realization that it’s simply me right here now,” Taurasi stated. “I miss her dearly. We’ve clearly gone by this for a very long time collectively. On the flip facet, it’s been actually enjoyable to get to know a few of these younger guys I haven’t spent numerous time with.”
Sure, Taurasi gained gold with Brittney Griner in 2021 and 2016. Her WNBA teammate with the Phoenix Mercury is within the group for this coaching interval.
Taurasi is constructing chemistry that merely existed beforehand. This group that caps this coaching stint Sunday with an exhibition at Duke contains solely Ariel Atkins (2021) and Angel McCoughtry (2012 and 2016) together with Griner as teammates Taurasi celebrated Olympic gold with earlier than.
A’ja Wilson, who simply led the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA title, at the moment has her left wrist in a solid. Breanna Stewart is awaiting the start of her second little one together with her spouse. Chelsea Grey is recovering from an injured foot that may hold her from a return to her school residence at Duke.
Meaning attending to know a bunch of latest teammates off the court docket.
“That at all times helps you while you’re within the sport,” Taurasi stated.
She understands how main an element that may be when enjoying on huge phases, having performed her finest when the stakes are on the highest. Taurasi is considered one of solely 12 gamers ever to win a World Cup gold medal, Olympic gold, an NCAA championship (three) and WNBA championship (sure, three extra).
Taurasi is simply as feisty, sarcastic and relentless as ever. As soon as the ball suggestions, that’s when the 6-foot Taurasi turns into the targeted competitor that makes her so worthwhile.
Tennessee coach Kellie Harper stated Taurasi’s “unbelievable” nonetheless enjoying as she enters her fifth yr teaching her alma mater. Harper, 46, stated she was doing the mathematics and realized she’s not a lot older than Taurasi. Not that Harper may do now what Taurasi does nonetheless.
“She’s savvy, she will get it, she’s a fantastic chief,” Harper stated.
Taurasi spoke to Harper’s Girl Vols earlier than Sunday evening’s exhibition, and Harper stated she was impressed with how Taurasi carries herself. Not a simple factor to say contemplating how bitter the UConn-Tennessee rivalry as soon as was and stays to followers with lengthy reminiscences.
Harper stated Taurasi was cordial, gave her a hug and had a fantastic go to together with her staff. Then Harper went onto the court docket earlier than warmups and noticed a special Taurasi.
“I locked in on her with my eyes, and you could possibly simply see she was on go,” Harper stated. “I used to be like, ‘Oh, this might be attention-grabbing’ as a result of she simply flipped that swap, and he or she was nice at observe, cordial at observe, and I assumed she was going to tear us aside in warmups. However that’s how aggressive she is.”
Taurasi knocked down three 3-pointers within the first quarter and a pair of free throws, scoring all of her 11 factors in 7:44. As Tennessee adjusted the way it defended Taurasi, she switched up and handed out three assists.
“Like Coach (Cheryl Reeve) stated, while you put on the USA jersey, it’s no matter it’s a must to do to make the staff higher,” Taurasi stated. “Completely different moments name for various issues.”
Taking part in in opposition to Taurasi can nonetheless be intimidating for an opponent, significantly the primary time.
Tennessee ahead Rickea Jackson, who has some USA Basketball expertise, stated she knew the Girl Vols could be enjoying Workforce USA in an exhibition. Then Harper began handing out the particular matchups.
“Then she goes, ‘Jewel (Spear), you’re guarding Diana Taurasi.’ My coronary heart dropped,” Jackson stated. “I used to be like, ‘Oh, that is actual.’ We’re actually enjoying in opposition to the perfect gamers on this planet.”
Make no mistake. If USA Basketball calls asking Taurasi to play in Paris, the reply would be the similar as 2004 to play in Athens, Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, 2016 Rio and the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Video games.
Your subscription couldn’t be saved. Please attempt once more.
Your subscription has been profitable.
“It’s at all times an honor while you get the decision,” Taurasi stated. “I’ve at all times taken it. And if I’m prepared, you understand, I get that chance, it’ll be good.”