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27/09/2006
News
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Taylor emerges from shade to talk MVP

From www.theaustralian.news.com.au
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Penny Taylor stepped out from the large shadow cast by Lauren Jackson to be acclaimed the world's best women's basketballer yesterday.

Taylor capped off her break-out international tournament by beating superstar team-mate Jackson to the MVP award as the Opals struck gold in Sao Paulo, Brazil, yesterday.

One of an exciting young group of players to have emerged in the WNBL from Melbourne in recent seasons, Taylor joked that, had she been born a boy, she would have been kicking goals for Chelsea rather than playing professional basketball year-round.

Taylor splits her time between the Italian league, where she was this year selected in the Euroleague All-Star team, and Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA.

"This is a dream come true, there is no other way to explain it," said Taylor, tightly clutching the world championship MVP award in one hand while stroking the gold medal around her neck, as she accepted the well wishes of the regulars at the Old Vic Pub, part-owned by husband of 10 months, Rodrigo Rodriguez Gil, a Brazilian volleyballer.

"I feel over the moon, winning the MVP is a special bonus. The award really belongs to the whole team.

"Winning the world championship makes up for the past losses at the Olympics and world championships.

"It felt fantastic to finally stand on the podium and see America and Russia standing on either side of us.

"I've dreamed about being here and holding the gold medal since I first began playing basketball at four years of age."

Taylor had already established an outstanding career, winning championships in Italy and Australia, with the Dandenong Rangers, and making an All-Star game in the WNBA.

But on the national front she has always lived in Jackson's shadow.

All that changed in Brazil after Taylor's all-court game proved decisive in the Opals' historic win in the final against Russia yesterday.

The 25-year-old rounded out an outstanding two-week tournament with 28 points, nine rebounds and three steals in Australia's 91-74 win.

Every time the Russians made a surge, Taylor was there to stop it. Taylor finished third in the tournament in points per game (18.0), seventh in steals (2.0) and 13th in assists (3.1).

And she did it all while carrying a groin injury.

While the gold medal was always her main target, Taylor was pleased to add an individual accolade to her resume.

"The gold medal is number one and I'm just thrilled and couldn't be happier," Taylor said. "But the MVP is a personal award that you get very rarely in your life and hardly ever at a world championships.

"I'm very, very pleased with it.

"I think what helped me have a great tournament is that Lauren does get so much attention and it leaves a bit more space for me to score."