American Diana Taurasi in new basketball function as she chases historical past, sixth Olympic gold medal

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. roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics, which might be her sixth. However this one seems 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, searching for to develop into the primary to win six straight gold medals in basketball.

“I am in a unique place the place you realize within the final couple of them I did it with my friends, and now I am doing it with B [Betnijah Laney] and you realize, gamers that I am not that acquainted with,” Taurasi mentioned Sunday night time from Knoxville after a 95-59 exhibition win over No. 11 Tennessee.

This time round, there isn’t any Sue Fowl as they made historical past on the 2021 Tokyo Video games successful a fifth straight gold. Sure, Taurasi received gold with Brittney Griner in 2021 and 2016. Her WNBA teammate with the Phoenix Mercury is within the group beginning coaching camp Tuesday in Atlanta.

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, presently has her left wrist in a solid. Breanna Stewart is awaiting the start of her second little one along 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 all the time helps you while you’re within the recreation,” Taurasi mentioned.

‘Feisty, sarcastic, relentless’

She understands how main an element that may be when enjoying on huge levels, having performed her finest when the stakes are on the highest. Taurasi is one in every 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 is when the six-foot Taurasi turns into the targeted competitor that makes her so useful.

Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper mentioned Taurasi’s “unbelievable” nonetheless enjoying as she enters her fifth 12 months teaching her alma mater. Harper, 46, mentioned she was doing the maths 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 mentioned.

Taurasi spoke to Harper’s Girl Vols earlier than Sunday night time’s exhibition, and Harper mentioned she was impressed with how Taurasi carries herself. Not a straightforward factor to say contemplating how bitter the UConn-Tennessee rivalry as soon as was and stays to followers with lengthy reminiscences.

Harper mentioned Taurasi was cordial, gave her a hug and had a fantastic go to along with her staff. Then Harper went onto the court docket earlier than warmups and noticed a unique Taurasi.

“I locked in on her with my eyes, and you might simply see she was on go,” Harper mentioned. “I used to be like, ‘Oh, this might be fascinating’ as a result of she simply flipped that change, and he or she was nice at follow, cordial at follow, and I believed she was going to tear us aside in warmups, however that is how aggressive she is.”

Intimidation issue

Taurasi knocked down three 3-pointers within the first quarter and a pair of free throws, scoring all 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] mentioned, while you put on the USA jersey, it is no matter you must do to make the staff higher,” Taurasi mentioned. “Totally different moments name for various issues.”

Enjoying towards Taurasi can nonetheless be intimidating for an opponent, significantly the primary time.

Tennessee ahead Rickea Jackson, who has some USA Basketball expertise, mentioned she knew the Girl Vols can be enjoying Crew USA in an exhibition. Then Harper began handing out the particular matchups.

“Then she goes, ‘Jewel [Spear], you are guarding Diana Taurasi.’ My coronary heart dropped,” Jackson mentioned. “I used to be like, ‘Oh, that is actual.’ We’re actually enjoying towards the perfect gamers on the earth.”

Make no mistake. If USA Basketball calls asking Taurasi to play in Paris, the reply would be the identical as 2004 to play in Athens, Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, 2016 Rio and the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Video games.

“It is all the time an honour while you get the decision,” Taurasi mentioned. “I’ve all the time taken it. And if I am prepared, you realize, I get that chance, it will be good.”

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