Diana Taurasi’s Critical Role at USA Training Camp
With five Olympic and three World Cup gold medals, three NCAA championships and three WNBA championships, Diana Taurasi is one of the most decorated basketball players in history. She's tied for the most Olympic gold medals ever with her best friend Sue Bird, who retired after the 2022 WNBA campaign. Suffice it to say, Taurasi isn't lacking championships or personal accolades. And it's that experience and leadership that make her such an important member of USA Basketball.
USA U17 and U19 gold medalist Brianna Turner paid high compliments to her Phoenix Mercury teammate.
"D is super encouraging, always willing to walk by and kind of whisper different things to me and give little pointers,” Turner said. “Obviously, D's a five-time (Olympic) gold medalist. She knows what she's doing, so I appreciate any type of advice she gives to me."
Taurasi has been in the USA Basketball program for 25 years and that experience is invaluable. Playing for your national team differs entirely from playing overseas or with the WNBA.
"It just teaches a lot of things. It teaches you how to be a teammate, how to be unselfish. How to put others in front of you and making sure you're part of the solution. Making sure you're part of the evolution of this team,” Taurasi explained of the meaning of playing for USA Basketball. “And as we always say, the front of the jersey is more important than the back of the jersey, and I think we've built that culture over decades going back from the 90’s and even the 80’s.”
As the USA recently met up for a three-day training camp in Minneapolis, there were varied levels of USA Basketball experience. Taurasi had an essential role for the players who have been around less often.
"Players like that, that have so much wealth of knowledge about how to go about your business, particularly with USA Basketball, is incredibly valuable,” said USA Women’s National Team head coach Cheryl Reeve. “From the time that you show up to the gym, what you do while you're there, how you compete, your pace of play, your ability to communicate, then what you do when you leave. Diana is the cream of the crop in terms of what you would want players that haven't had that level of experience to understand. This is what it takes to be on USA Basketball, so that'll be incredibly valuable to us."
Taurasi made it very clear that playing for USA Basketball isn't only for fun.
"I mean, you always have to be very thankful that you're in the position of being in a camp with some of the best players in the world at all times,” Taurasi reflected. “It just shows that you, as an individual, are making great strides in your career, and at the same time, there's a lot of work to be done, and that's what USA Basketball is. It's a continuum, and it keeps evolving every year."
The USA Women's National Team has won Olympic gold all but three times since 1976. When you play for USA Basketball, there is a tradition to keep and the future is in good hands.
"There are so many young, talented, hungry players in our league right now, and it's pretty impressive that they're willing to come to a camp like this in the middle of February with no tournament in sight,” Taurasi said. “Obviously, the one kid that I've loved since college, [Kelsey] Plum, her competitiveness. I love the way she works. A'Ja [Wilson] is extremely talented, Sabrina [Ionescu]. You go down the line of these incredible guards. Arike [Ogunbowale] is someone I love to watch play. Marina [Mabrey], you just go down the line.
“I always say USA Basketball is always in great hands, not only with all the great talent we have but getting them into the system early and letting them know how we do things, and it's been pretty impressive to see that evolve over the last couple years."