August 26, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: Diana Taurasi, a generational offensive engine

'The hype around Diana was at the highest level for a prospect that you can think of'

Our WNBA Retrospect series continues at Locked on Women’s Basketball! The series reviews game film, stats, news articles and more to determine who has been the best prospect in the history of the WNBA. Last week, Hunter Cruse, Em Adler and Lincoln Shafer discussed Sue Bird, the No. 1 overall pick in 2002. This week, Em and Lincoln talk about Bird’s UConn teammate and the 2004 No. 1 overall pick, Diana Taurasi.

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As a senior at UConn, Taurasi averaged 16.2 points, 4.9 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. In both her junior and senior seasons, she won the Honda and Naismith awards for the national player of the year and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Here’s Lincoln on the hype that surrounded Taurasi leading into the 2004 WNBA Draft:

“The hype was almost immeasurable. She was viewed as basically the greatest guard prospect in the history of women’s college basketball. People were saying that she was going to be the LeBron James of the WNBA, the Magic Johnson, the Larry Bird, in terms of raising the Q rating, raising the ceiling of the league. She was viewed [as] the spark that the Phoenix Mercury needed … Nell Fortner, the Georgia Tech coaching legend, was on the record in 2004 comparing Diana Taurasi’s college career to that of [USC’s] Cheryl Miller and [Tennessee’s] Chamique Holdsclaw as one of the best college basketball players ever. And the hype around Diana was at the highest level for a prospect that you can think of.”

Em and Lincoln talk about Taurasi’s remarkable 3-point shooting, which was far ahead of its time. As a UConn senior, she hit 39.0% of her threes on 6.2 attempts per game. But here’s what else impressed Em about college-age Taurasi:

“She had such a sick handle … and it’s hard to overstate her lateral quickness, her burst, [and] her ability to really hold midair hangs and just contort her body through traffic. It was absolutely incredible. You’re not going to see many players better in any given year than her at that. But I think what is probably … the most historic standout skill is the footwork on the jumpers. There is no one who was going to have cleaner footwork, both on their catch-and-shoot jumpers and on their pull-up jumpers, especially from three.”

Taurasi was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury and is currently in her 19th season with the team. She is a three-time WNBA champion, 10-time All-Star and 14-time All-WNBA selection, and she was named WNBA MVP in 2009. In 528 career regular-season games (all starts), she has averaged 19.1 points, 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds. On Aug. 3, she became the first player in WNBA history to score 10,000 career points.

Related reading: Diana Taurasi’s competitiveness keeps her going as she passes 10,000 career points

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