Notebook: Team Missing Three Stars as Opener Approaches

By Matt Paulson
East Valley Tribune
May 14, 2008

The defending WNBA champion Mercury held their annual media day Tuesday but did so without three of their top four returning scorers. Guards Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and Kelly Miller are the only players yet to report but are expected to do so later this week.

Taruasi and Miller led Spartak Moscow to the EuroLeague Women’s title on Sunday and both flew back to the U.S. on Tuesday.

Miller is expected to practice today while Taurasi, who made a stop in Los Angeles first, should be at Thursday’s practice.

Pondexter, meanwhile, may see her first action with the Mercury in Saturday’s season opener. The team she plays for in Turkey is in that league’s finals, and the decisive Game 5 is today.

The Mercury open their season at home with a nationally televised (ABC) game against the Los Angeles Sparks at 12:30 p.m.

They will have a banner unveiling and ring ceremony starting at noon.

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One of the biggest surprises of the preseason has been Japanese point guard Yuko Oga, coach Corey Gaines said. The 25-year-old, who signed a training camp contract in March, is a natural fit in Phoenix’s fast-paced system and appears close to earning a roster spot.

“She’s very fast, very aggressive,” Gaines said. “She does what we do automatically. Her first instinct is always to attack.”

Oga (5-foot-7) has played the past seven years in the Women’s Japan Basketball League and was named MVP for the 2007-08 season after leading the league in assists (7.1) and steals (2.4) and ranking fourth in scoring (15.6).


Assistant coach Julie Brase-Hairgrove, who is entering her fourth season with the Mercury, became a mother for the second time when she gave birth to Hailey this offseason.

Hailey was born Jan. 21.

“I have a two-year-old (Madison) and a three-month-old now, so I have some organized chaos at my house, let me tell you,” Brase-Hairgrove said, laughing.


Rookie forward LaToya Pringle, Phoenix’s first-round pick this year, has yet to practice with the team as she is still rehabbing from left knee surgery last month. Pringle said she hopes to be able to practice in two weeks.

COPYRIGHT 2008, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.