Day 1 Practice Report From Women's National Team Mini-Camp
Las Vegas, Nevada
Stalking the sidelines in a USA Basketball T-shirt and as animated as anyone on the court, the only thing holding back Diana Taurasi from taking the ball and taking charge of Monday’s mini-camp practice was the small brace on the star’s left hand. At times even that didn’t seem like it would contain her.
“The hardest thing to do is come and not play,” Taurasi said.
Taurasi, a five-time gold-medal winner for the USA Basketball Women’s National Team in the Olympics and World Championships, is recovering from surgery to fix a broken bone in her left hand she suffered while playing for her Russian club team, UMMC Ekaterinburg. Another two or three weeks of rehab and Taurasi expects to return to workouts, but even though she knew she wouldn’t be able to participate on the court Taurasi didn’t want to miss the group’s three-day mini-camp at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center.
“She’s the greatest teammate that I’ve ever been around,” said head coach Geno Auriemma, who also coached Taurasi at Connecticut. “… Even on the sidelines she’s as engaged if not more so with what’s going on than some of the guys that are actually playing. Having her here means a lot to USA Basketball and it means a lot to me personally, but I can’t say that I’m surprised.”
One of the biggest names in USA Basketball — “This is her team,” said guard Skylar Diggins — Taurasi didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to catch up with some of the players she’s been playing, and winning, with for years. More importantly, she wanted to get her eyes on the next crop of players who will move into more prominent positions after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Taurasi said the sideline offered a different perspective than she can see while racing up and down the court. From that vantage point she could more easily tell, just like Auriemma and his staff, how much effort the 23 players on the court were putting into their drills and who was best playing as a unit during the day-ending scrimmages.
Perspective is nice, but given a choice Taurasi would prefer to be able to suit up with the rest of her teammates. The good news is the camp’s first day only buoyed her confidence about the team’s potential when she does return.
“We’ve got some great talent and USA Basketball is in great hands with these young kids,” Taurasi said. “At the same time, to see some of the older vets still be hungry for it every time we put the jersey on, we’re going to be all right.”
Parker, Moore Put on a Show
It makes sense that USA Basketball’s veterans would be the ones best equipped to shine in camp and that was the case Monday as Candace Parker and Maya Moore earned accolades from Auriemma for their performances.
Parker won gold at the last two Olympics while Moore was on that 2012 U.S. Olympic team plus the 2010 USA World Championship squad. During the scrimmages they stood out from the crowd, at times dominating players in one-on-one battles or setting up easy shots out of double teams.
“Those two are able to do a variety of things and it makes it easier for them because they know the system, they know the drills,” Auriemma said. “Those two had really good days.”
Consistency the Key
Three days isn’t a lot of time to make an impression so it’s important for players to do everything they can in that time to make their mark. Auriemma said a big part of that is bringing the same intensity and effort that he saw on Monday.
In such a limited window there’s no time to let up, especially for players trying to prove themselves as the next wave of USA Basketball talent.
“We’ve had these camps in the past where guys look really good on day one, not so good on day two and really bad on day three,” Auriemma said, “so it’s being able to sustain it for all three days that’s going to be a key for these guys.”