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Diana Taurasi hits 20 years on USA Basketball national team, still remembers 2004 voicemail

Diana Taurasi's first call-up to the USA Basketball senior national team — 20 years ago — is still fresh in her mind.

In 2004, then-program director Carol Callan rang to ask Taurasi to join the group while she was still a senior at the University of Connecticut.

"I was like, 'What!?'" Taurasi remembered last week. "So I packed all my stuff, and I met them in Denver, and we did a three-game tour, and the rest is history."

It led to her debut game for Team USA on this day 20 years ago.

On April 6, 2004, Taurasi wore UConn No. 3 for the last time in a win over rival Tennessee in New Orleans as the Huskies three-peated as NCAA champions.

Then on April 9, she wore USA No. 8 against Japan in Denver in the first of a three-game exhibition slate.

She had 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks, according to reports at the time.

That busy week was documented in this Ahmad Rashad-narrated profile in 2004.

A month after Taurasi's debut, Callan phoned again to tell her she made the Olympic team.

"To tell you the truth," Taurasi said, "I think she left a voicemail because I'm not good at answering my phone."

After listening to the recording, Taurasi remembered dialing her parents and her older sister, Jessika.

"They knew how much it meant to me, how much time I'd put into the junior national teams growing up, the 17-and-under (team), 19-and-under (team)," she said. "To get the call-up was a dream come true."

Taurasi came off the bench at those Olympics behind Sheryl Swoopes as the U.S. won a third consecutive title.

"She'll probably get in three, four or five more Olympics," veteran point guard Dawn Staley said that summer, according to WNBA.com.

Taurasi, 41, is now bidding for a sixth Olympics (breaking the record for a basketball player) and a sixth gold medal (an outright record for any team sport, according to the OlyMADMen).

She said after the 2016 Rio Games that she was likely done playing for the national team. Then she came back to play under Staley for the Tokyo Olympic cycle.

After the Olympic final in 2021, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. She had run her career Olympic record to 38-0, including starting every game at the last four Olympics.

In 2022, she wasn't on the FIBA World Cup team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury. She missed a major tournament for the first time since 2002.

Taurasi then returned for a national team training camp in February 2023 and is now in the running for the 12-player team for Paris that will be named in the coming weeks.

"To me, basketball's everything. It's my whole life," she said. "I know a lot of people always want to be something else. I don't. I just want to play basketball."

In interviews last week, younger teammates gushed.

"When I started playing basketball, Diana was just the embodiment of who I wanted to be out there on the court," Kelsey Plum said. "Just fearless, tenacious, confident, fun, swaggy."

"Diana, obviously for me, is the player that I've looked up to since I was a little girl," Sabrina Ionescu said. "She's the goat of women's basketball and has been for a really long time."

Back in 2004, Taurasi was the youngest player on the floor as the U.S. practiced before her debut in Denver.

Stalwart Lisa Leslie broke one of those first team huddles by saying, "Welcome, Diana," and later opined that Taurasi made the best adjustment of any player she'd seen join the national team.

The team's coach, Van Chancellor, had simple advice before Taurasi's first practice, which she has followed now for two decades.

"Forget about where you come from, who you are, who did you play for, anything else," he said. "You join our team and get the job done."

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