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Eternal champion Taurasi draws motivation from her only defeat
TENERIFE (FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018) - On the eve of the summit in Tenerife, it will be 12 years since the USA last lost a game at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup.
Diana Taurasi remembers it all too well.
In fact, it may be a stretch, but it feels like much of the motivation to go and win everything there is to win in women's basketball came from a single game. Because it helped her get something - that ferociousness she has kept on showing, day in and day out, in her 14-year-long professional career.
"My biggest asset is a really strong mentality, I just think that we're going in to the tournament to win," the 36-year-old said before flying in for her fourth appearance at the Women's World Cup. "You know, I've been on the other side of it, where we've lost, and it was a terrible feeling. I want to make sure if there's anything I bring it's that mentality. Win at all cost."
“We're definitely excited for the World Cup. We always say as players that this is the hardest tournament.”
The "other side of it" came on September 21, 2006. It was the Semi-Finals, Russia had everything going right for them, while USA struggled to even do the basic stuff and couldn't prevent an upset. Taurasi fired in a team-high 21 points on the night, but shot just 7-of-20 from the field in a 75-68 defeat.
Now, 12 years later, she wants to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Taurasi and USA will be chasing their third straight title in the competition, something that has not been done since the days of the Soviet Union and their domination.
Team USA want their part of history of, as they say, "the hardest tournament."
"We're definitely excited for the World Cup. We always say as players that this is the hardest tournament, you have the most teams, obviously the best teams in the world, so it's always very competitive," she offered. "And being held in Spain, it's going to be one of those electric atmospheres."
However, with a loaded pool of talent and never-ending depth of the team, USA have an advantage on all the other teams because their team practices offer top-notch match-ups for all the players. It's like playing a strong friendly game twice a day, every day.
"Training is very rigorous I would say. You're going up against the best players in the world in each position, so everywhere you turn you are playing against the best. And we have a bunch of characters on our team," Taurasi laughed alongside Brittney Griner, claiming that Sue Bird is "the mom" of the group.
"Or is she the grandma of the group?" Taurasi asked and laughed.
All of which proves a point that is horrifying for everybody not named USA in Tenerife: the chemistry feels superb, the motivation is there and the fatigue of the WNBA season is not felt at all.
"At this point of my career, when you are 36... you kind of take it month by month. Right now, I'm just really focused on the World Cup. Being ready, physically, mentally, to give my best, and then I'll get together with USA Basketball and see if the future is there," Taurasi commented.
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Why not? Tokyo is just two years away, and she'll be 38 coming into the 2020 Summer Olympics. Perfect age not just to chase her fifth Olympic gold in a row... but also, to take the grandma of the group title away from Bird.