Asia Taylor (left) competing for Louisville

By Lachy France

Brydens Sydney Uni Flames have rounded out their squad for the 2016/17 season with the addition of Connecticut Sun WNBA player Asia Taylor as the team’s second import for the season. The final pick of the 2014 WNBA draft, Taylor has nonetheless carved out a solid pro career to this point, playing her rookie season with Minnesota before playing in Europe and South Korea before returning to the WNBA in recent weeks with Connecticut.

Taylor’s move to the WNBA was an unexpected one, but definitely a massive opportunity not only in the short-term, but in preparing for the move to Australia for a season in the WNBL.

“I had an opportunity to play my rookie year [with Minnesota] and so just being back is definitely a blessing and I’m looking forward to playing against some of the top competition in the US and using that to improve my basketball IQ,” Taylor explained.

“The competition level here, for sure, will definitely help. Obviously in the U.S. I’ve been training but there’s nothing that can compare to actually playing in the WNBA in the off-season before I come over to the WNBL. I think that’ll be a perfect transition for me.”

Taylor played her college basketball at Louisville, where she was one of the team’s leaders in her senior year with the Cardinals. Despite being forced to redshirt the 2012/13 season in which Louisville reached the NCAA National Championship game, Taylor was still able to make a trip to the Elite Eight in 2014 and also played in the NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012.

Following a highly successful college career, Taylor was drafted by the defending champion Minnesota Lynx with the final pick of the 2014 WNBA draft, eventually earning a spot on the roster. Taylor would play in 22 regular season games in her rookie year, notching a season high of 10 points in just 18 minutes of action in an early-season game against New York.

Taylor would then move to Europe to play following the WNBA season. Since that time, the 185cm forward has played in Poland, Italy, Israel, and South Korea, averaging double figures in scoring at each stop. Playing against many different styles has forced Taylor to adjust at each different destination, something she recognises as helping her in her transition to the WNBL.

“[Playing in different countries] allows me to up my basketball IQ, and just be able to use my experiences of playing against so many different types of players,” Taylor explained. “It definitely helps me to be prepared for anything that I might face in Australia, any type of player, any type of offence or defence that I might see.”

Australia has long been a favoured destination for American players, and Taylor is no different. Having long dreamed of taking a trip Down Under, the opportunity to spend a full season in Sydney was too good to pass up.

“I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, that’s always been on my life’s to-do list. I’ve always wanted to come out there and see what it was like, and experience it.” Taylor revealed. “So when the offer came on the table to actually go out there and live and to play, it was a no-brainer.”

“I’ve heard great things about the WNBL. Every American I’ve talked to that’s ever played there has loved it, so that definitely speaks for itself.”

“Monica Wright, I played with her in Minnesota and she was the biggest one that I talked to. I know that she loved it out there, for sure.”

Having fought back into the WNBA in recent weeks after missing out on the 2015 season, Taylor is clearly a player with plenty of toughness and hustle, something she is keen to show Flames fans this season as the team attempts to reach the finals for the first time since 2014/15.

“I’m going to play hard, give everything I’ve got. I’m not trying to put too much pressure on the season, because I know when you play hard and you give good effort, the wins will handle themselves.” Taylor explained. “So I’m not putting any goals on wins, just to win as many as possible, but just having fun while we’re doing it, that’s the biggest thing.”

Whilst basketball is the number one priority for Taylor this season, the Ohio native is planning to make the most of her chance to spend a summer in a city with some of the world’s finest beaches.

“I have set the goal to learn how to surf this year!” Taylor revealed. “Every time I tell my mum, she’s crazy afraid that I’m going to get eaten by a shark, but I believe that I can somehow learn to surf, at least the basics! And I want to go snorkelling too!”

Connecticut remain an outside shot at making the WNBA playoffs with five games remaining in the season, so Flames fans will have a few chances to watch Asia before she makes her WNBL debut on Friday October 7 at 7:30pm against Perth Lynx at Brydens Stadium. To secure your seat for that game and all Flames games, make sure you purchase a membership here

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