Catching up with Diana Taurasi
Four years ago, as a recent college graduate and a rookie in the WNBA, Diana Taurasi earned her first Olympic gold medal as part of a U.S. team led by experienced veterans like Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes. Today, with 3,000 career points under her belt in her fourth year in the league, Taurasi's heading back to the Games -- this time with two younger superstars.
SI.com caught up with the Phoenix Mercury star before the WNBA's Olympic break to find out how she's coping with playing with a Tennessee alumni and balancing her two teams.
SI.com: So what was your reaction when you found out you were on the Olympic team?
Taurasi: It was definitely exciting. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing whenever you get an opportunity to play for your country.
SI.com: How did you balancing your WNBA season and the Olympic team?
Taurasi: It's hard because at one point, you have to get into Olympic mode; when I'm with the Phoenix Mercury and I have to concentrate on winning games. But then the minute you get to San Francisco, you have to be in Olympic mode. [The team is currently completing its final training session at Stanford University.]
SI.com: How do you do that?
Taurasi: I mean we have a great team, so the minute we get around each we just get in that mode. We're all very close, so that just makes it a lot easier.
SI.com: Is there any trash talking between you all on the WNBA floor?
Taurasi: Obviously you're ultra competitive [in WNBA games], but I think we respect each other enough to stay away from that and we know in a month we're trying to accomplish one goal.
SI.com: Speaking of teammates, what's it like playing with Lisa Leslie?
Taurasi: Lisa really is amazing, she's just such a competitor and she wants to win. When I was playing with her in 2004, she just taught me so much.
SI.com: Like what?
Taurasi: Just how to prepare for big situations and she's just a professional about everything she does.
SI.com: So do you think this will be her last Olympics?
Taurasi: Who knows? Lisa is a superwoman and, just when everyone thinks she's not going to come back, like when she has a baby, she just does. I know many people think this is her last Olympics, but I think she hears that and thinks in the back of her mind 'I got one more left in me.'"
SI.com: What's it like playing with Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles now?
Taurasi: They're amazing talents, and they're great people. They're just amazing basketball players -- they're going to be a really neat generation of players.
SI.com: Are you cool with Candace even because of the Tennessee thing?
Taurasi: We definitely represent our schools.
SI.com: How's UConn coach Geno Auriemma?
Taurasi: He's good. I still talk to him once or twice a week -- last week I had an opportunity to go to dinner with him when we were playing in Connecticut. He's still my biggest mentor.
SI.com: What advice did he give you about the Olympics?
Taurasi: Just represent your country because you don't get that opportunity a lot.
SI.com: What are you going to pack besides your sneakers?
Taurasi: Some Aveno lotion, Aveno bodywash, hairspray -- I know a lot of girls like to bring ranch dressing and snacks, but I'll eat anything they give me. Except cat or dog.
SI.com: What's your relationship like with the guys' side as a WNBA player and Olympian?
Taurasi: Oh, it's great. Being here in Phoenix, I see Amaré Stoudemire, Sean Marks and Steve Nash, and when we pass by, we chat. They come to our games to support us and we go to theirs. When I was in Athens with a bunch of the players, we definitely all hung out a lot.