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A motivated Diana Taurasi joins Phoenix Mercury training camp

PHOENIX — Diana Taurasi did not want to miss another day.

Coming off one more successful season overseas, the Mercury’s leading scorer and one of the game’s biggest stars reported to training camp on Monday.

Never mind the fact that only days earlier she helped UMMC Ekaterinburg win its sixth straight Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League championship.

“Well, I actually tried to get her to take a few more days off,” said head coach Sandy Brondello, who was an assistant on the Russian team. “But if you know ‘D’, she’s just a competitor. She just loves playing the game. I think she probably took more days off than she’s used to. But she’s ready to go.”

Taurasi said she arrived back stateside on Thursday, spent a couple of days in L.A. and then returned to Phoenix on Saturday.

“The minute I get to Phoenix, I have to be in the gym,” she said. “I want to be with these people. They’re working hard. I’ve got to be here, too.”

Now in their second week of training camp, the Mercury are scheduled to play two preseason games, one on Friday and another on Sunday as part of the first-ever WNBA Preseason Tournament 2014 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.

And yes, Taurasi is expected to play.

“I feel good. I’m probably in the best shape of my life right now. Injury wise — knock on wood — I was injury-free throughout the whole winter,” she said following a two-and-a-half hour practice. “I’m just excited. I think there’s some new energy, some new faces. I think if we can put it all together, at the right time, we have another good chance of putting up another banner.”

Two championship banners currently hang inside US Airways Center.

And though they’ve come close in recent seasons, it’s been five years since the Mercury last won it all in 2009.

“So this year it’s like, can we get over the hump?” Taurasi said. “I think we have enough talent to do it. I think we have enough personalities to do it.”

Winning a third title is what keeps Taurasi motivated as she begins her 11th WNBA season.

“I’ve played around the world. Everyone here has played around the world. They’ve won Spanish championships, Chinese championships, Russian championships, but nothing compares to playing here. The support we get in the city, how much the city loves us. When we come out on this court it’s a different feeling. You’re playing for a whole city. And that feels really good. And that’s what keeps me coming back — these fans, this organization,” she said, before adding with a smile, “It’s not the money.”

Taurasi, who is entering the final year of a contract extension signed following the 2011 season, will turn 32 this summer. But she has shown no signs of slowing down.

Last season Taurasi earned her eighth All-WNBA First Team Selection, finishing second in the league in both scoring (20.3) and assists (6.2).

“The minute I get back to Phoenix, I get happy again. I get revamped with energy because this where I belong. This is home.”