With several new faces on the roster, the Phoenix Mercury share their thoughts with Alex Chambers about the team and the upcoming season.
“You have to put that time and effort into it. I think that’s going to be huge for us.”
Commenting on teamwork in her squad, Diana Taurasi was in typical direct-and-honest form when she addressed the press on the Phoenix Mercury’s annual media day. With a retooled roster, her team is looking to do what every team in the WNBA wants to do – win.
In 2011, the Phoenix Mercury defeated the Seattle Storm in a stunning game three to advance to the Western Conference finals. However, they were quickly swept by the Minnesota Lynx in just two games. The Mercury has a goal of redemption (in the form of a championship), and thanks to some roster improvements they plan to battle for their rightful place at the top of the Western Conference.
When it was announced on April 12th that starting forward Penny Taylor would be out for the entire season due to a torn ACL, it seemed that the Mercury’s chances for a post-season appearance, let alone a championship, took a hit. Taylor has been a huge contributor for the Mercury, and her absence will mean two things for every player on the roster: step-up and stand out. The ability to get back to the conference championship depends heavily on whether or not Taylor’s shoes are filled.
GM and head coach Corey Gaines was adamant in sharing his perspective about Taylor’s absence when he addressed the press during media day. “She (Penny Taylor) will be there in spirit and she wants us to win, but your questions should probably be going more towards the players that are playing this year." Obviously, Gaines was referring to the current Mercury roster, which definitely has a new look and feel this season. With an average player height of six feet, the Mercury has added overall size that it hasn’t always been known for. Not to mention only six players on the current roster returned from last season, which means several new faces.
BRISTOL, CT - APRIL 16: WNBA President Laurel Richie poses with Samantha Prahalis after being drafted number six overall by the Phoenix Mercury during the 2012 WNBA Draft. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Phoenix Mercury added Alexis Hornbuckle and Charde Houston, both previously part of the Minnesota Lynx 2011 championship team. A product of the University of Tennessee and a two-time WNBA champion, Hornbuckle has a broad skillset, including running the point – a need Phoenix has after starting point guard Temeka Johnson was traded to Tulsa in the off season. She also holds the record for career steals at Tennessee, which will be a welcomed addition to the Mercury’s defense.
Houston is a standout from the University of Connecticut and also a WNBA champion. While she may not have seen as many minutes during the Lynx championship run in 2011, it is obvious that when she was given the chance to contribute in the past, Houston has delivered. With the Lynx leading scorer Seimone Augustus injured and unable to play in 2009, Houston stepped up big time, starting 33 games and averaging 13 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23 minutes of play. Her scoring ability will complement the Mercury’s offensive system quite nicely.
At the sixth pick in the 2012 WNBA draft, the Phoenix Mercury scored big selecting Ohio State point guard Samantha Prahalis. The Big Ten player of the year and all-time leader in assists (901 in her collegiate career), Prahalis brings skill, energy and some additional swagger to the valley of the sun. A player with the ability to find the open teammate, and a slew of shooters to choose from, it seems that Phoenix could maintain their scoring dominance in the league.
Defense is also something that Gaines mentioned wanting to improve. Make no mistake – the run-and-gun style of the Phoenix Mercury is here to stay, but with the addition of 6’7” Zane Tamane and 6’3” rookie Avery Warley, the Mercury could turn things around defensively. Tamane’s defensive talents were discovered by Penny Taylor when they played together on the same team in Turkey during the off season. Warley was the single-season rebounding leader in the Big South Conference, (besting 6’7” Katie Feenstra-Mattera, with 363 boards) and is also nationally ranked 14th for that very same skill. With veteran Nakia Sanford rounding out the post players, Phoenix will look to challenge the notion that they are not a defense-able team.
There’s no question that Gaines can always count on three-time sixth woman of the year DeWanna Bonner, the consistently outstanding Candice Dupree and possibly the best player in the WNBA, Diana Taurasi. Also, second year player Alexis Gray-Lawson is looking to make an impact; she posted a 34 point game in the pre-season.
The Phoenix Mercury definitely has their work cut out for them this season. However, with new offensive and defensive weapons in their arsenal, along with a strong returning core, they should most definitely not be counted out.
Opening Day Roster
No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. From/Year
24 DeWanna Bonner G/F 6-4 137 Auburn ‘09
4 Candice Dupree F 6-2 175 Temple ‘06
21 Alexis Gray-Lawson G 5-8 180 California ‘10
14 Alexis Hornbuckle G 5-10 168 Tennessee ‘08
22 Charde Houston F 6-0 193 Connecticut ‘08
99 Samantha Prahalis G 5-7 129 Ohio State ‘12
43 Nakia Sanford F/C 6-4 190 Kansas ‘03
6 Zane Tamane C 6-7 176 Western Illinois ‘06
3 Diana Taurasi G 6-0 163 Connecticut ‘04
13 Penny Taylor F 6-1 165 Australia
23 Avery Warley C 6-3 202 Liberty ‘12
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