Each week leading up to the Olympic Games later this summer, we will introduce you to the WNBA players who will be representing their countries in Athens. From first-timers to veteran Olympians, the WNBA's best and brightest stars will be showcasing their skills on the world's biggest stage.

Diana Taurasi, United States
By Matt Wurst, WNBA.com
The Basics

Country United States
Hometown Chino, CA
WNBA Team Phoenix Mercury
Position Forward
Height 6-0
Weight 170 lbs.
Birthday June 11, 1982
Olympic exp. None
She may just be a rookie in the WNBA, but many basketball experts already consider Mercury guard Diana Taurasi one of the best players in the world. She will have a chance to prove them right next month as a member of the USA Basketball Women's National Team. But there is no reason to think she won't succeed on an international stage after dominating the college game and, thus far, exceeding all expectations as a professional.

In fact, Taurasi has a great deal of international experience despite being the youngest player on the U.S. squad. In 2000, she won a gold medal in the Junior World Championship Qualifying and a bronze in the Junior World Championships in 2001. That year, she earned All-FIBA Junior World Championship Team honors and was named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Month in July, 2001.

In winning three consecutive national championships with the University of Connecticut between 2002 and 2004, Taurasi cemented her reputation as one of the toughest and most talented players in the history of the sport, earned unanimous All-American honors and became just the fifth two-time winner of the Naismith Player of the Year award. She was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury and has not disappointed her new team. In her rookie debut she scored 22 points, and followed that with a 26-point outing and another 22-point game to average a league second best 23.3 ppg. to start the season. With Taurasi, the Mercury eclipsed last season's win total in mid July.

Taurasi joined the 2004 USA Senior Team in April, less than 48 hours after winning the NCAA title, and got in one practice before suiting up against Japan. IN her first game with the team, Taurasi tallied 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in the USA's victory. In the trio of exhibition victories over Japan she averaged 9.0 ppg., 2.3 rpg. and 4.0 apg. She was named to the U.S. Senior National Team on May 12.

Taurasi will be going to her first Olympics
(Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images)
Up close and Personal

Do you have a favorite Olympic sport other than basketball?
"Track and field."

What are your Olympic memories growing up?
"Growing up, I remember watching the first men's Dream Team and being totally in awe of what they were doing. The 1996 U.S. Women's team also brought home the gold and were pioneers for our sport."

If you are fortunate enough to win it all, what will you do with your gold medal?
"Give the gold medal to my mom."

What are your expectations, both personal and as a team, heading to Athens?
"I don't really have any personal expectations, I don't do that, but as far as the team goes, I think we are going to go out there and play our best game no matter the round or the opponent. We can't take anyone for granted and have to be ready to play against the other talented teams around the world."

You may be new to the WNBA, but there are some familiar faces on your team?
"A lof of familiar faces on the team. This is the first Olympics for Swin, Sue and myself, and I am very proud to be playing alongside them."

You've played for some good teams with some great players? Is this the best one?
"Most definitely. This is the best team in that the best players in our league and in the world will be coming together for a common purpose. I am really excited and can't wait to get there and be with the team. It was a lot of fun getting to play with them earlier this summer, and I can't even imagine how great the Olympic experience will be."

Game on Game

Tina Thompson, U.S. teammate:
"Special´┐Żvery, very special. Diana does a lot of things that you don't see most players do. She can play just about every position on the floor, and I think that if she was a little taller, she could probably play center too."

Katie Smith, U.S. teammate:
"D is a great addition to the team. She likes to be in the mix, is versatile and can handle every situation she encounters."

Lisa Leslie, U.S. teammate:
"She has a nice shot."

Sheryl Swoopes, U.S. teammate:
"Another young, talented, great player and I think is very deserving of this opportunity she is getting."

Svetlana Abrosimova, Team Russia forward:
"The girl can do anything! When she has the ball, you don't know what to do. She makes everything better. She will make all the great players better."

Dawn Staley, U.S. teammate:
"She is a special player. She'll probably get in three, four or five more Olympics."

Tamika Catchings, U.S. teammate:
"she is the new breed of basketball players. Just a great athlete and a great person that will be the face of our league and the USA for many years to come."

Sue Bird, U.S. and former University of Connecticut teammate:
"I love the fact that both Swin (Cash) and Diana, two people I have been playing with for a long time, will be there alongside me representing the United States. It is a great honor and I'm glad I can share it with them."

DeLisha Milton-Jones, U.S. teammate:
"Cocky, but confident. Flashy, smart, and the future."

USA Basketball Statistics

2004 WNT
5- 10
0- 0

Sheryl Swoopes, USA
Yolanda Griffith, USA
Dawn Staley, USA
Sue Bird, USA
Tina Thompson, USA
Katie Smith, USA
Lauren Jackson, Australia
Lisa Leslie, USA
Tamika Catchings, USA
Swin Cash, USA

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