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This Week in Women’s Basketball: All eyes are on Phoenix with Diana Taurasi’s 10,000-point achievement, Skylar Diggins-Smith’s concerning allegations

While Diana Taurasi gets praise for passing 10,000 points, eyes should be raised in regard to the Phoenix Mercury’s stalemate with Skylar Diggins-Smith. Catch up on what has happened in Phoenix, and across the women’s basketball world.

Atlanta Dream v Phoenix Mercury
Diana Taurasi shows her appreciation for the X-Factor while celebrating her 10,000-point scoring achievement with her teammates.
Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

Here’s the women’s hoops news from the past week:

Celebrating Diana Taurasi...and just Diana Taurasi

Reflecting on scoring more than 10,000 points, Diana Taurasi said, “I think it was a great celebration of basketball, men’s or women’s.”

She’s correct. The evening was the seeming improbability of basketball at its best. The 41-year-old Taurasi fired off a regular-season career-high 42-point salvo in the game in which she passed 10,000 points, providing a thrill for Phoenix fans in an otherwise mostly disappointing Mercury season.

As such, it requires no validation or legitimation through comparison to men’s basketball. (And neither did Alyssa Thomas’ triple-double accomplishment.)

Let’s allow women’s basketball players to be the center of their history-making and barrier-breaking stories.

Skylar Diggins-Smith shares frustration with Mercury

Elsewhere in Phoenix, Skylar Diggins-Smith took to Twitter/X to share her side of the seeming stalemate between the six-time All-Star and the Mercury organization.

According to Diggins-Smith, she has been prevented from accessing the training resources and facilities available to all other team members as she seeks to regain her fitness and form following her maternity leave. It remains unclear if Diggins-Smith, who will be a free agent this offseason, desires to suit up for the Mercury, or another WNBA team, before season’s end. If she is ready to return to the court, it would certainly would add an extra dose of the excitement to the season’s final stretch, as Diggins-Smith was playing some of the best ball of her career last time we saw her in action. (Also, a belated happy 33rd birthday to Sky-Digg!)

More critically, Diggins-Smith’s situation, in context with the lingering lack of clarity surrounding the Las Vegas Aces’ treatment of a pregnant Dearica Hamby, suggests that, while a reformed maternity leave policy was one of the signature achievements of the 2020 WNBA CBA, further support is needed for players as they deal with the challenges of pregnancy, motherhood and a professional basketball career.

Before Thursday night’s game, head coach Nikki Blue was asked about what Diggins-Smith has alleged, saying in response, “Skylar is on maternity leave right now and as we do with players on maternity leave, we give them their space.”

NCAA introduces post-eligibility injury insurance program

The NCAA is stepping up to provide medical support for former student-athletes.

Beginning next August, Division I, II and III athletes in all sports will have access to two years of healthcare coverage after the conclusion of their career, covering care for any injuries that the athlete suffered while representing their school athletically. The program also includes limited coverage for mental health care.

While the program can be criticized as a reaction to several Congressional bills that seek to exert more structure on college sports, it ultimately serves the needs of former student-athletes, which should be the priority of any and all policies and programs. As such, it is worth questioning whether the football-fueled conference realignment frenzy serves athletes in other sports, including women’s basketball.

NCAA, USA Basketball hold first Girls Basketball Academy

In another positive move, the NCAA, in partnership with USA Basketball, just completed the first College Basketball Academy for young women.

The four-day event, held in Memphis this past weekend, invited hundreds of top high school prospects, not only providing them with high-level playing opportunities but also with information to help them navigate the recruitment process. The NCAA paid for the travel, food and lodging for players and their chaperones. Coaches from more than 160 schools also were in attendance to recruit future stars.

The event was established in response to the 2021 report produced after an investigation into gender inequity in college basketball, which was sparked by the exposure of the inadequacy of the women’s NCAA tournament bubble.

Get excited for the Gulf Coast Showcase

Thanksgiving week, filled with tournaments in sunny locales, often feels like the unofficial launch of the college basketball season. The Gulf Coast Showcase promises to be one of the signature events for the 2023-24 season, highlighted by the potential of a semifinal shootout between host Florida Gulf Coast and Iowa.