Itís Not Hype - Taurasiís the Real Deal

Paola Boivin
The Arizona Republic
May 21, 2004

Sometime between the no-look pass and the 50-foot basket at the halftime buzzer, Diana Taurasi rousted a sports community in need of an adrenaline rush.

"Hmmm," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said, smiling. "I'll have to see what she's doing this winter."

The Mercury lost Thursday night at America West Arena because it was outrebounded by a Sacramento team with dominating post players.

The Mercury won Thursday night at America West Arena because Taurasi's game is ground-breaking, a harbinger for the future of women's basketball.

Buy the hype. Buy the buildup. Buy a ticket and ride the crest of the game's evolution.

Watching Taurasi was watching Annika Sorenstam in her PGA debut last year. Watching Taurasi was watching one of Serena Williams' baseline drives.

It was new.



"I'm so impressed with how she plays the game," former Suns guard Dan Majerle said. "The touch passes. Finding the open person. The charisma. She's got it."

Suns guard Casey Jacobsen, who was sitting courtside, said, "I'd like to play with her. She's as talented as anyone on the floor and she still looks to pass first. When you're as good of a scorer as she is, coaches, fans will tell you to shoot. Yet she's so unselfish."

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Those two were the faces of Mercury fans Thursday, not just the hardcore group that has loyally followed the team in recent years. Suddenly, it's cool to attend a Mercury game.

You can't get a much better Q-factor than Jacobsen and Majerle.

Others, like Ray Gonzalez, a 30-year-old YMCA sports director from Surprise, said curiosity drove him to bring his family of four.

"I've heard a lot about Taurasi," he said. "I want to see her."

What he saw was a player who recorded a block, a three-pointer and an assist. Within the first three minutes.

At the core of her 22 points was her fundamental soundness. Her jumper is textbook, her passes precise.

Her coach at Connecticut, Geno Auriemma, once said that Taurasi is the only woman he has coached who lived on the basketball court away from practices or games. Other players, most likely a generation of pre-Title IX'ers that weren't steered that way, didn't.

Taurasi's game shows just what a gym rat she is. Much of what she does is instinctual. If other females follow her lead, they'll share that court presence.

It's a credit to her teammates that they have embraced the hype machine that makes Taurasi the center of every Mercury promotion. She's the first to be featured and the last to be introduced.

Why shouldn't they? Once PGA players got over the jealousy of the attention awarded to Tiger Woods, they realized how good he was for their Tour.

That's Taurasi to the WNBA

She helped generate a strong pregame buzz..

Co-owners Anne Mariucci and Kathy Munro nervously worked the room as players warmed up, anxious to see what direction attendance would take.

"I feel like my brother is the starting pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series," Mariucci said.

"It's like my daughters are all out there playing," Munro said.

Fans filled most of the lower bowl, anxious to catch a glimpse of Taurasi. They roared when she entered the court through the stands.

She said she doesn't mind being a sideshow.

"It's interesting. Whatever it takes to get people out to the arena is fine with me."

Mission accomplished.

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