INDIANAPOLIS – Diana Taurasi has finally had a chance to relax.
After spending the last few weeks on vacation traveling the country, the former UConn star flew in to the Final Four from her home in Phoenix and made a surprise visit to watch her beloved Huskies play Notre Dame in the national semifinals Sunday night.
It's the first women's basketball event for Taurasi since she was cleared of doping allegations in February. She had been provisionally suspended by the Turkish Basketball Federation after two samples tested positive for modafinil, but the lab that performed the test retracted its report two months later.
Taurasi has been looking forward to focusing on basketball — camp for she and her WNBA teammates on the Phoenix Mercury begins next month — but she took some time this weekend to make sure she catches the Huskies and their current star, Maya Moore.
Taurasi and coach Geno Auriemma have a close relationship, with both feeding off their senses of humor. Taurasi has a new dog — a miniature schnauzer named Messi, after the soccer great Lionel Messi, though she did consider naming him Geno.
"He's got to win more championships than Pat (Summitt) to get some love," she quipped.
Two more victories and Auriemma will match Tennesee's Summitt with an eighth title. He said he was just happy that his former star made the trip.
"I'm excited because I haven't had a chance to really see her after all this stuff that's gone on," he said. "I'm excited for my team as I know they haven't seen her in a long time."
Taurasi helped guide UConn to three straight championships from 2002-04, a feat only done once before (Tennessee, 1996-98).
"I think she can give them a little bit of energy that only is going to add to what we already have," the Hall of Fame coach said.
Taurasi, who led the WNBA in scoring the last four seasons and signed a multiyear extension last August, was the first prominent league player to test positive for a banned substance. Had she not been cleared, Taurasi could have missed the London Games next year because the International Olympic Committee bars any athlete given a doping penalty of six months or more from competing.
Taurasi will participate in the upcoming U.S. basketball training camp in May.
"I never looked forward to playing USA basketball as much as I do now," she said.
But first, those Huskies and a close-up view of Moore, lauded by many as the greatest women's player alive, including Taurasi.
"I think we're different types of players," Taurasi said. "We're at different places on the floor and we utilize what we do best. We have a very similar work ethic and determination to carry our team. She does a great job willing them to win. That's what makes her great."
Pressed on who would win a one-on-one game, Taurasi had a simple answer.
"She'd kill me," she said, adding a laugh just to add a bit of mystery to what she really might think.