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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Diana Taurasi is aiming for her sixth gold medal at the Paris Olympics

Twenty years ago, Diana Taurasi received her first call-up to the senior national basketball team. As a senior at UConn, she quickly transitioned from college basketball to preparing for her inaugural Olympics.

“The first one is always the most exciting one. You know, I was just out of college, I was the youngest on the team, and everything was brand new,” Taurasi reminisced. “I was just excited to be there. I was learning from all the vets.”

Today, Taurasi stands as one of the veterans, bridging dynamic eras in women’s basketball.

“It’s definitely been a shift. Sometimes I’m having lunch with the coaches because I’m closer in age with them, which is pretty funny, but it’s a great cast of young, just superstars, and they are just unbelievable basketball players,” she remarked.

“She’s seen everything in every game, has done everything in every game, every scenario,” noted Team USA Head Coach Cheryl Reeve.

“What Dee brings to the table is just obviously experience, leadership. You know, she’s one of the greatest to ever do it,” echoed Olympic teammate and fellow Huskie Breanna Stewart.

Taurasi’s career is decorated with three collegiate championships, three WNBA titles, and five Olympic gold medals, a record she shares with another UConn alum, Sue Bird. “It was always pretty special to be able to do it with your best friend. You don’t get to say that in life very often when it comes to business and your work, but I was lucky enough to do five Olympics with my best friend,” Taurasi said of Bird.

She credits their time at Connecticut for their success on the global stage. “There’s just a synergy of doing it the right way. And I think we learned that in Connecticut. That’s why you see so many Huskies on the national team,” Taurasi explained. “The ability to kind of share the floor with her is an honor for all of us,” added Stewart.

With Bird now retired, Taurasi steps up as the solo leader of the team. Coach Reeve is confident in her abilities. “I like to call it a rabbit, if you will, that younger players need someone to chase in terms of how you do things. And D has been always at the top,” Reeve said.

Reflecting on her journey, Taurasi noted, “You know, I think back on how I was when I was 25 and how I am now. I’m much calmer. So, I guess that’s the lesson of getting older is you’re a little bit more calm, and I think that just comes with leaning on that experience. And the only reason I’m playing right now is because I have two kids. Because they’ve made me better, focused on the things I need to get done to make sure I go home and be the person I want to be.”

A calm presence will be vital as Team USA aims for an eighth consecutive gold medal. “It takes a lot of sacrifice. It takes a lot of heart. There’s something about putting this jersey on that brings the best out of you as a teammate, as an athlete, as a coach. And those things aren’t easy. And we’re going to try to do it again,” Taurasi emphasized.

Should she help Team USA clinch victory, Taurasi will make history with the most gold medals of any basketball player.

A defining moment from her freshman year at UConn has stayed with her. Coach Geno Auriemma called her into his office after two seniors were injured. “He tells me, ‘There’s no age to be great.’ So now, being 41, I tell myself all the time, ‘There is no age to be great,’” Taurasi recalled. “So here we are.”

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