DeWanna Bonner is one of the greatest players in Phoenix Mercury history. Entering her ninth season, she has already earned accolades that include two WNBA championships, an All-WNBA First Team selection, and three WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year awards. There was a more important accolade on her wishlist which required her to forego the 2017 WNBA season, and that title was mother. Bonner missed last season in order to welcome twins, Cali and Demi, into the world with wife Candice Dupree.
“Being a mother is amazing.” Bonner said, “I get to go home and see their faces every day, and they are both excited to see me. It is the best feeling in the world.”
Entering her first day of training camp last week, Bonner said she had a lot of nervous energy, but it quickly faded away when she was greeted by many familiar faces. That list included long-time teammate Diana Taurasi, who is making her first appearance at the start of training camp since the 2004 season.
“When I woke up this morning I was super nervous. I felt like a rookie who had never been here before, and it was my first day of training camp. Once I walked in and saw Dee (Diana Taurasi), though, I knew I was ready.”
Taurasi and Bonner have been teammates since Bonner was selected by the Phoenix Mercury with the fifth pick in the 2009 WNBA draft. They have achieved some of their greatest accomplishments together over this time including the two WNBA championships in 2009 and 2014. They return after a year apart both as first time parents as Taurasi and Penny Taylor welcomed their son, Leo, this offseason. The two are positive that their children are in for a great experience as Taurasi as already dubbed the family room at Talking Stick Arena as ‘Kidchella’.
On the court, the Mercury look poised for another run at a championship as Bonner and Taurasi are joined once again by Brittney Griner, the 2017 WNBA scoring leader, to form the team’s “Big Three”. The trio led the charge during the 2014 season when the Mercury won a WNBA-record 29 regular season games on their way to winning the third championship in franchise history.
The Mercury have made it to the WNBA semifinals in three consecutive seasons since their title in 2014, but have been unable return to the WNBA Finals. This year the team looks to build on these strong performances and make a run at another title. General Manager Jim Pitman and Head Coach Sandy Brondello spent the offseason crafting a talented roster built around the talents of the three elite players.
Phoenix acquired 13-year veteran and six-time All-Defense selection Sancho Lyttle, who was signed as a free agent this offseason after spending the past nine seasons with the Atlanta Dream. Lyttle will bring a strong veteran presence and add another dominant defensive presence to the front court rotation as she prepares to play alongside Griner and returner Camille Little in very deep Mercury frontcourt.
The team also acquired one of the best on-ball defenders in the game and six-time All-Defense selection Briann January via trade in the weeks before the 2018 WNBA draft. January is poised to hit the ground running, as the guard is an alumnus of Arizona State and is also an assistant coach for the Sun Devils women’s basketball team in the offseason. Her skill as a defender, floor general, and three-point marksman make her an ideal fit beside Taurasi in the backcourt.
Along with these two acquisitions the Mercury added more depth with their selection of center Marie Gülich with the 12th pick in this year’s WNBA Draft. Gülich, the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Third Team All-American selection, will be slotted behind Griner at the center spot.
As training camp grinds forward and the team continues its preparations for the start of the WNBA season Bonner made it clear that there is only one thing that is her driving force this season.
“Winning the championship, that’s it, that’s all that’s on my mind this year is holding that trophy when it’s all said and done.”
The Mercury will get their first taste of action when they head to Seattle to take on the Storm May 8th for their first of two preseason games against the Seattle. The 2018 WNBA regular season officially kicks off May 18th when the Dallas Wings come to town to face Bonner and the Mercury on Fry’s Food Stores Opening Night.