St. Louis — It was just too much of a coincidence for Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma.
The town next to his birthplace in Italy was named Taurasi. A wine he collects was named Taurasi. So, could that high schooler from Chino, Calif., at the top of his recruiting list have the same Italian connection?
"I figured, you know, what are the chances," Auriemma said, "and I kind of followed it up and asked about it. And it turns out that it was exactly right."
Diana Taurasi ended up at Connecticut, following a recruiting visit where Auriemma made half his pitch in the family's native Italian. Auriemma said Taurasi's father didn't speak much English, much like his parents, and Diana's high school experience as the child of immigrants was strikingly similar to his own.
"Her parents really weren't in a position to help her make a decision or help her with the whole recruiting process," Auriemma said. "So I knew what she was going through and I think we connected on some level, because of our experiences growing up."
While Taurasi played right away for the Huskies, Auriemma increasingly leaned on his star freshman after All-Americans Shea Ralph and Svetlana Abrosimova were lost to injuries. Ralph tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the Big East championship game, and Taurasi ended up tournament MVP.
Taurasi then led the Huskies to the Final Four, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the NCAA East Region semifinals.
"I don't think I have ever known a freshman to do that before," said Notre Dame's Kelley Siemon. "They are in no way lacking without those two All-Americans."
All-Star Game: The basketball shifts to the nearby Washington University field house today, for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association fourth-annual All-Star Challenge.
The game features 17 seniors from Division I, including Duke's Georgia Schweitzer and Georgia's Kelly Miller, plus the top seniors in Division II, III and the NAIA.
Washington University's Tasha Rodgers will represent Division III.
Where's the SEC?: This is only second time in the 20 years of the NCAA tournament that the Southeastern Conference has failed to land a team in the Final Four.
Vanderbilt came the closest to reaching St. Louis, losing to Notre Dame in the Midwest Regional final. The only other SEC that even made the final 16 was Tennessee, which was upset by Xavier in the Midwest Regional semifinals