Taurasi Now Eligible For 2006 U.S. Olympic Committee Award
For her leadership during the USA's bronze medal run in the 2006 FIBA World Championship, the USA Basketball Executive Committee has selected the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi as the USA Basketball 2006 Female Athlete of the Year, USA Basketball today announced.
"Playing for USA basketball and representing our country
is, alone, a real privilege," said Taurasi. "I love the process
of coming together to pursue the gold with such a talented group of women.
An award like this, to be chosen within that group, is an incredible honor."
"Congratulations to Diana on being named our Female Athlete of the Year," said USA Basketball Executive Director Jim Tooley. "She gave a very impressive performance during the 2006 World Championship. She is an outstanding talent, a great teammate, and I look forward to seeing her back in our uniform in years to come."
In capturing the 2006 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year honor, Taurasi also becomes eligible for the 2006 U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) Female Athlete of the Year Award, which will be announced by the USOC in January 2007.
"Diana Taurasi is one of the finest women's basketball players to play the game," said 2006 USA Women's Senior National Team and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "Statistically she was one of our leading scorers and was a major influence in every aspect of our team. Diana has unlimited range, which helped stretch the defense out and free up other players. I believe what makes Diana so special though, is her complete passion for the game. She has the ability to make the players around her better. This is a characteristic of the greatest of players. She brings an energy which is contagious for the fans, and is an absolute joy to coach."
Taurasi scored in double digits in seven of nine games and was the team's high scorer on three occasions during the 2006 World Championship, including a dominating 28-point outing in the USA's bronze-medal win over Brazil. Taurasi also tallied 15 points in a U.S. victory over France and 21 points in a loss to Russia. She led the team in rebounding with seven boards in a win over Nigeria and dished a team-leading five assists in a win over Cuba.
Taurasi sank 25-of-50 3-point attempts at the World Championship to capture the tournament's 3-point trophy and lead the USA team in 3-pointers made, attempted and in 3-point percentage (.500).
Prior to the Worlds, Taurasi helped the U.S. squad top Australia in an exhibition contest in Durham, N.C., and to secure three wins during the 2006 Senior National Team's first European Tour in March of 2006. Against Australia on Sept. 7, she was one of two Americans in double digits with 10 points, two assists and one block, and during the three games of the European Tour, Taurasi averaged 6.7 ppg., 1.7 rpg. and 3.3 apg.
Taurasi's 2006 World Championship Teammates included: Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx); Alana Beard (Washington Mystics); Sue Bird (Seattle Storm); Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever); Cheryl Ford (Detroit Shock); DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics); Candace Parker (Tennessee / Naperville, Ill.); Katie Smith (Detroit Shock); Michelle Snow (Houston Comets); Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets).
Donovan was assisted on the sidelines by 2006 WNBA Coach of the Year Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Duke University (N.C.) and Dawn Staley of Temple University (Pa.).
During the 2006 WNBA season, Taurasi led the league in scoring, averaging a WNBA-record 25.3 ppg. She became the first WNBA player to reach the 800-point mark in a single season, finishing the 2006 campaign with 860 points and scored a WNBA single-game record 47 points versus Houston (8/10/06) in a triple-overtime 111-110 victory. She was named a 2006 WNBA All-Star and to the All-WNBA first team.
Taurasi also competed during the 2005-06 season in Russia for Moscow Dynamo and helped the club reach the 2006 EuroLeague quarterfinals.
Taurasi previously has played on three USA Basketball squads, including the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, the 2001 Junior World Championship Team and the 2000 Junior World Championship Qualifying Team.
Averaging 8.5 ppg. and 3.0 rpg. Taurasi was the youngest player on the 2004 U.S. Women's Olympic Team that posted an 8-0 record and claimed gold in Athens, and she averaged 4.3 ppg. and 2.3 rpg. in the USA's three pre-Olympic exhibition contests. She joined the 2004 USA Senior National Team less than 48 hours after winning her third NCAA title with the University of Connecticut and averaged 9.0 ppg., 2.3 rpg. and 4.0 apg. in the USA's three spring exhibition games.
Taurasi also was a member of the 2001 USA Junior World Championship Team that posted a 6-1 record and earned the bronze medal. She averaged 19.3 ppg., passed off for a team high 2.7 apg. and was named to the five-member All-FIBA Junior World Championship Team. Prior to the Junior Worlds, she averaged 13.8 ppg. and 4.0 apg. in helping the U.S. women capture the USA Basketball International Invitational with a 4-0 record against Brazil, China and Japan. As a member of the 2000 USA Basketball Women's Junior World Championship Qualifying Team that recorded a 5-0 record, earned the gold medal and received a berth in the 2001 Junior Worlds, she started all five games and averaged a team second best 12.6 ppg., a team high 4.6 apg. and 4.2 rpg.
A graduate of the University of Connecticut (2001-04), Taurasi helped the Huskies to a 139-8 (.946 winning percentage) overall record, including an equally impressive 22-1 (.957 winning percentage) mark in NCAA Tournament play, winning three national titles, four Big East Conference regular seasons championships and two Big East Tournament crowns in her collegiate career. She became the fifth, two-time winner of the Naismith Player of the Year award after collecting the honor in 2003 and 2004. She was named the 2003 and 2004 NCAA Final Four's Most Oustanding Player and was named the 2001, 2003 and 2004 NCAA Tournament Region MOP.
As USA Basketball's 2006 Female Athlete of the Year, Taurasi enters into the impressive company of previous honorees.
In its 27th year, the USA Basketball Athlete of the Year
has been earned by notable athletes such as Crystal Langhorne (2005);
Dawn Staley (2004, 1994), Seimone Augustus (2003); Lisa Leslie (2002,
1993); Ayana Walker (2001); Teresa Edwards (2000, 1987); Natalie Williams
(1999); Lisa Leslie (1998); Chamique Holdsclaw (1997); Teresa Edwards
(1996); Sylvia Crawley (1995); Katrina McClain (1992, 1988); Ruthie Bolton
(1991); Venus Lacey (1989); Cheryl Miller (1984); Lynette Woodard (1983);
Cindy Noble (1982 co-recipient); LaTaunya Pollard (1982 co-recipient);
Denise Curry (1981); and Carol Blazejowski (1980).