Taurasi working like a dog, and loving every minute
STORRS, Conn. -- There's a scene in "A Hard Day's Night'' where the Beatles are preparing to rehearse and they're teasing Ringo, who's being all fussy about anyone else touching his drums. John starts into, "If I Fell,'' and the rest join in while the stage crew is scampering about setting things up, not paying any attention to them.It's my favorite part of the movie. Even though the song has simple lyrics, harmony and pace, it's beautiful; you can listen to it a million times. And the Beatles are smiling, relaxed -- like, "OK, this is what we do: music.'' It's so purely joyful. This popped to mind after watching Connecticut senior Diana Taurasi shooting with a few teammates in an otherwise empty Gampel Pavilion recently. Now, you're thinking, "Oh, God, please stop it; you're comparing Taurasi to the Beatles?'' Maybe you wonder if you've stumbled into the "Boneyard,'' UConn's Internet fan site that at times features gushing tributes of such purple prose that the authors make Beatles fans at the "Ed Sullivan Show'' seem restrained by comparison. Or, if you are one of the worshipful, you're saying, "Hah! How many national championships did Paul McCartney win on a bum ankle?'' But here's all I'm getting at: Taurasi truly loves to play -- when everybody is watching and when nobody is. She doesn't make things more complicated than they are. Her approach to the sport, and life for that matter, is happily pragmatic.Diana Taurasi, last season's Naismith and Wade Trophy award winner, was named Final Four Most Oustanding Player last season after helping the Huskies repeat.
COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF
The 2003-04 season officially opens Saturday when teams around the country hold their first practices. Games tip off Nov. 14 (Preseason WNIT). Until then, we have you covered. While ESPN.com's women's college basketball preview won't launch until Nov. 3, our "State of the Game" fills you in on which team we expect to top the women's and men's preseason polls, and who the front-runners are for the national player of the year awards. Click on the links below to find out more:
- UConn through the years
It all started in the mid-1980s, when two new coaches made their way to Storrs, Conn.
- Garber: Husky Hysteria
It's a phenomenon like no other when the following of UConn men's and women's basketball gets together each winter.
- Garber: Dynamic tension drives UConn's dynamic duo
Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun will never be best friends. But they have learned to appreciate each other and joined forces for a good cause.
- Quick Dish: Words to live by
"We got Diana and you don't" summed up last season rather succinctly. Can UConn beat out the competition and ride Geno Auriemma's motto to New Orleans?
- Katz: One and only Okafor
UConn's scholarly Emeka Okafor just might pick up a Wooden Award on his way to the White House.
“ If you go around getting mad at every little thing that happens, you're in for a long season that's going to be horrible. If you make it fun, if you make it light and not like a 'job' -- well, that's how I try to go all the time. On the court and off. I'm going to enjoy every day, be positive. ” — UConn's Diana TaurasiSo she has learned to be an exceptional teammate, something some great players never are able to do. "My freshman year, I had ... I wouldn't say a hard time getting along with people, but they just didn't understand the way I was trying to use what I wanted to use,'' she said. "Now I think I have a better understanding of my teammates and that respect level with everyone is so much higher. Coach taught me a lot -- that you can't think of yourself first. "And it's strange, but when you think of others first -- and there's no better example than when we won the past two years -- when you invest more in other people, that's when everything comes back to you.'' She's beginning her senior season. Last year's very-able rookies, such as Ann Strother and Barbara Turner, are now national champions, too. Juniors Jessica Moore and Ashley Battle have become consistent role players. It's far from a one-woman team. Yet Taurasi still will always seem as if she's lit in neon. She'll be up for all the awards, written and talked about by everyone involved with women's basketball. "I don't dislike it -- who wouldn't like all these things?'' she said. "But at the same time, I don't look at it like I'm 'here' and everybody else is 'down there.' "As much as I've changed in some ways these three years, I think I'm the same person. ... I know I am. This is not that big of a deal because when I go home it's no big deal. "My parents don't care. It's 'Dee, take out the trash, set the table.' It doesn't matter. My friends at home and my friends here, they don't care, either.'' Of course, they do care and it is a big deal ... but people don't have to treat her that way because she doesn't need them to. Taurasi is genuinely having a wonderful time. She's got another season of taking UConn fans on the ride with her, and then she'll do it for some other fans when she turns pro. If she took -- or will take -- your team out along the way, maybe you don't like her. That's perfectly natural, perfectly OK. That's just sports, which is something Taurasi thoroughly understands and couldn't live without. "You just grow up with it,'' she said. "It's something that's so second nature, you have to have it. It's like breathing, it really is.'' Mechelle Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. She can be reached at email@example.com.Diana Taurasi rarely loses her cool, but admits she does let it go sometimes around her teammates 'just to let them know that I DO get mad.'
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