Military Ties Prepared Taj McWilliams-Franklin for Basketball Career
Growing up in a military household prepared Taj for a career in basketball
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Taj McWilliams-Franklin didn�t have to serve in the military to have an appreciation for all the sacrifices individuals make for their country. She�s been living a military lifestyle since she was born, as she spent her entire childhood bouncing from state to state with parents who both served in the armed forces.
When asked to recall all of the cities Taj lived in while growing up, she let out an exasperated sigh and a little bit of a chuckle.
�I started my life born in Fort Woods in El Paso, Texas. Left after three months and I�ve been moving ever since,� she laughed. �That�s the easiest way for me to say it.�
Taj labels herself as a military brat. Taj�s father was the first to enlist, but her mother joined shortly after when Taj was in her teens. By then Taj had already developed a strong understanding of the time constraints involved with the military, and so she hit the road again to live in Hawaii for a year before moving to Georgia, an area she admitted was closest to being her hometown. In a way, it was only further preparing her for a career in basketball.
�If there ever was someone born into a basketball lifestyle, it would be me,� she said. �I�m used to the travel because of my household. The only good thing I can say is that I make friends quickly because of it.�
One of those friends she met along the way is her husband Reggie, a retired Army sergeant who was stationed in Italy and devoted eight years to the service.
While playing overseas in Italy during the 1999 WNBA offseason, Taj and a few teammates decided to go to a local base to hang out with some of the Americans. Coincidentally enough, basketball was the common ground for the two.
�He was actually playing basketball,� she said with a laugh. �One of those inter-unit games where guys play against each other on the base.�
Ten years, 20 countries and three continents later, that bond is still going strong. But even the act of getting married required a lot of flying and planning squeezed into just a little bit of time.
For a few years, the WNBA season was Taj's version of overseas play
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It�s easy to see how Taj may not remember exactly how many days she had off. Just one look at her travel plans and it�d be difficult to remember the time zone, let alone the number of days off.
The flight plan was like this: The two departed on separate flights to meet at a shared location in the states so they could both fly out together to Las Vegas. Reggie flew in from Italy, Taj admittedly couldn�t even remember where she was that year. Nevertheless, they landed at two in the morning in Vegas, stayed three days and then flew back in their separate directions so she could resume her overseas season.
Just like that, the WNBA season became Taj�s form of overseas play, predominantly from 2000 to 2007 when she lived in Italy. During that time, Reggie would often take his 30 days of leave and visit her in the states, whether it was Orlando between 2000 and 2002, Connecticut between 2003 and 2006 or Los Angeles in 2007.
And yet despite all that, Taj�s WNBA offseason included stints in Russia, Korea and Spain. So while it wasn�t necessarily �overseas,� as many WNBA players have come to refer to it, it was still a ways away from home.
Even after Taj gave birth to her third daughter in 2003, she hit the road again three weeks later to play ball in Spain. So it was her, her nanny and the baby in Spain for three months, where Taj says she saw her husband �maybe six times� during four-day weekends or longer periods of time off.
�We definitely learned how to work out visits,� said Taj. �I went from there and I came home for a little while, like a week or two, and then I left and went back to Connecticut because our team had moved.�
With all of the traveling between Taj and Reggie, not to mention all of the frequent-flyer miles and potential to land some of the high-end gear in Sky Mall purchases, one is left to wonder: Where exactly is home for the 12-year pro who just finished up her last season in New York?
�We�ve had our house in San Antonio, Texas since he got out of the military in 2007,� says McWilliams-Franklin. �We�re thinking about maybe another place in Florida just because he has allergies, but we have nothing in New York right now but hopes I guess.�
Having just returned from a short stint overseas in Spain, Taj finds herself back home for the first time in a long time.
�This is my first extended home stay in a while,� she said. �Since�wow, I don�t know the last time I can remember being home this long.�
When asked if she plans on returning for another season in 2011, Taj was quick to admit she does expect to return.
�It�s kind of like the superhero mantra, �Wherever I�m needed, I�ll go,�� she joked.
�Life is an adventure. I�ve been living it since I was born and I love it. It works for me.�