Penny Taylor to Make Season Debut Sunday

Andrew Nicholson,
Posted: June 27, 2006

Penny Taylor will be in the U.S. this Saturday, and the Mercury have a game the day after. In other words, expect the All-Star forward to play against the Washington Mystics Sunday.

“If Penny's in town, Penny is playing,” said Diana Taurasi, following Tuesday’s practice. “Penny and I are real good friends so I am happy that she's coming back."

Returning again to get one practice and one shoot-around in before suiting up for the Mercury should be enough time, albeit a very short amount, in order for the well-traveled Taylor to be ready to contribute for Phoenix.

“There will be some transition for her to learn what is going on and get herself back into some basketball shape,” Mercury General Manager Seth Sulka said. “But I think Coach will be very aggressive in getting her involved. I mean she’s already going to have missed a certain portion of the season and we don’t want to extend how much she is going to miss, so I think it will be rather quick and she’ll get a practice under her belt and we’ll get her out on the floor.

“It could be three or four games until she is really into her own rhythm, but I think she can contribute right from the start.”

With her return, Sulka says “arguably one of the top 10 players in the world” is added to the Mercury’s already potent lineup that features the league’s leading scorer, Taurasi and one of the league’s most lethal rookie scorers in Cappie Pondexter.

After an off-season in which she married her long-time boyfriend, Rodriguez Gil, she had to skip taking a honeymoon so that she could resume play for her Italian team, Famila Schio.

This past season overseas, her team won the Italian League Championship for the second year in a row and she averaged over 17 points and nearly six rebounds per game.

Taylor has been a key player for the Mercury’s success the two seasons she has played in the Valley after being acquired in the dispersal draft in 2004. She has averaged over 13 points and over four rebounds in each season with the Mercury. Although it is important for the Mercury to have the entire team here from start to finish, adding a player like Penny will give the team a lift.

“Now you have more scorers and more players that have to be guarded and paid attention to by the other team,” Sulka said. “Penny’s arrival will create opportunities for that player or for other players, because of the focus the defense will have to put on her. Adding someone that can score as well as she can from the perimeter and from going to the basket is going to put that much more pressure on defenses.”

Although she is a proven scorer, having scored 30 points or more several times in the WNBA and in Europe, her biggest asset could be her ability to drive and her scrappy play. She is known for her tenacity and could be a big boost for the undersized Mercury on the boards.

"Knowing her game I know she can bring a lot more driving to the basket,” said fellow Aussie Belinda Snell of her longtime friend. “We already have a lot of shooters here, so she'll drive to the basket and get rebounds, as well. For her size, she is one of the best rebounders.”

Penny does come into a new style under Head Coach Paul Westhead, and after taking some time to relax with her family in Australia, it could be a bit of surprise how much running she will have to do. Don’t expect Taylor to be out of shape by any means. She is hoping to contribute right away, whether it is with scoring, rebounding or just being a veteran leader.

“She’s definitely an experienced leader,” Sulka said. “She has five years under her belt. She’s played in the Olympics. She’s played in the World Championships, and she’s MVP overseas so we’re getting someone who is a ready-to-go type of veteran. She’s not going to need much of an adjustment period, so she’s not going to need much time to get used to things. The system will be new to her, but she will pick it up fairly quickly.”

The Mercury will be a tougher match-up with Taylor added to the roster. With Taurasi and Pondexter carrying the offensive load, Kamila Vodichkova manning the opposing bigs and grabbing boards and the healthy Kelly Miller distributing the ball and firing up the Mercury defense, the outlook for the second half of the season looks very promising.