Penny Taylor in Melbourne
Time out for Taylor
14th May 2012 from Knox Leader by Megan Hustwaite
PENNY Taylor is home in Melbourne cherishing precious time with family.
She knows just how rare it is.
The international basketball star, considered the world’s best female player of the past year, had planned a flying visit before joining an Opals Olympic camp in Canberra this month.
Instead she is recovering from knee surgery that has, cruelly, ruled her out of the London Games.
The 30-year-old star, raised in the hills at Upwey, tore her anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Turkish team Fenerbahce six weeks ago.
She flew to Melbourne a month ago for reconstructive surgery.
An emotional Taylor admits she is devastated, but the support of family and friends has given her strength.
The dynamic forward has spent the past decade overseas playing season-to-season in the Women’s National Basketball Association in the US and in Europe.
Taylor can’t recall the last Christmas she spent with family; her schedule allows just a handful of days in Australia each year.
“It’s been the silver lining out of all of this,” she said.
“Mum has cancer and is in the process of chemo, so to spend time with her has been really nice.
“I’ve been to my niece’s kinder and watched my little six-year-old nephew play basketball for Sandringham. They’re all the things I haven’t really had the chance to do.”
The usually ultra-cool Taylor takes a deep breath, her eyes well with tears, when asked about London.
“It means missing the WNBA and over half the European season,” she said.
“So, as far as my career goes, it’s pretty devastating, along with an Olympic Games.
“It’ll be tough. I’ve been part of that (Australian) team for a really long time. It’ll be really tough.”
Taylor is unlikely to be courtside in London but will be cheering the Opals wherever she may be.
“I wouldn’t dream of being there in the position of someone who can actually play and assist the team. I’m a basketball player and not a very good cheerleader,” she said.
Taylor, a dual Olympian, admits she’s stubborn and says it took time to accept the injury.
“I kept believing they didn’t have it right, that the scan was bad quality. I kept telling myself all these things,” she said.
“The AIS flew a physio out to see me and he let me down gently and confirmed it was definitely an ACL.”
“I still stubbornly thought they’ll do another scan and it won’t be. It took a good three weeks for me to believe it.”
The second child of Michael and Denna, Taylor grew up in Upwey with older sister Heather and younger brother Philip.
The siblings all played for the Belgrave South Red Devils before Penny joined the Nunawading Spectres.
She moved to Canberra on an AIS scholarship and returned to Melbourne to play for the Dandenong Rangers, where she was named the WNBL’s most valuable player in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons.
The WNBA’s Cleveland Rockers drafted Taylor with a first round selection in 2001 but she has played for the Phoenix Mercury since 2004.
Taylor is planning a visit to the Belgrave South Red Devils before flying to the US, where she will start her rehabilitation.
“They’re (Red Devils) a small club that doesn’t get big numbers. They feel like family,” she said.
“I went to school with a girl called Suzi Rayment, and she and her husband are now really involved in running the club.”
“Their kids play there now and they really believe in the place.”
“I’m only too happy to go back there.”
After living in the US, Italy, Russia and Turkey, Taylor doesn’t see herself travelling around the world if not for basketball.
“No, I hate airports and I’m a bad packer - yes, after all this time,” she said.
“You learn not to miss anything too much when you’re away for so long, but I love just knowing where everything is in Melbourne.”
“I love all the familiar places and things and going to Chadstone and getting lost.”
“I love the attitude here. Things are very commonsense and people are friendly and positive.”