Taylor believes female basketballer Griner has unique talent
PENNY Taylor has played with and against the best basketball players on the planet.
But she has never seen one like Brittney Griner.
The 22-year-old is coming off a record-breaking career with Baylor University in Texas where she became the first NCAA player to shoot 2000 points and block 500 shots.
Griner stands 2.03m and is incredibly athletic.
She recently became the first openly-gay athlete to sign an endorsement deal with Nike.
But it's the fact she produced 18 dunks in her time at Baylor - there were none in the WNBA last season - that has focused interest in the WNBA like never before.
"Brittney is a very unique player - very talented - different to any player I've ever seen," Taylor, a dual Olympic silver medallist with the Opals, said ahead of the team's opening match against Chicago tomorrow morning.
"It's been really exciting to watch her play. She's young and has things to learn, but what she brings to the table is unique."
Taylor, who has already won two WNBA titles with Phoenix, said she was ready to return to the court after missing all of the 2012 season, and the London Games, after rupturing her ACL while playing for Turkish side Fenerbahce in February last year.
Her surgery was carried out in Melbourne by world-renowned knee surgeon Julian Feller, and she has spent much of the past 12 months doing rehab with a view to returning to peak fitness later this year.
"I had a really great group of people who've helped me get back into shape. I've worked a lot on my back, doing physio ... I did a lot of pilates and pool sessions and weights four times a week for the past few months," the 31-year-old said.
"It's going to be a gradual return, a gradual minutes increase in the games, looking forward to being at full strength toward the later part of the season."
No-one will be watching that progress more closely than newly-appointed Opals coach Brendan Joyce.
The former Wollongong and Gold Coast men's coach was appointed earlier this month to a full-time role leading the Aussie women, and Taylor said she was excited about playing under Joyce.
"I'm definitely looking forward to being an Opal again - obviously I was very disappointed to have missed the London Olympics," Taylor said.
"I've never been coached by Brendan before, but I've heard from other players on the men's side that he is a fantastic coach who has always brought the best out in his players.
"I'm looking forward to him bringing back a real positive team culture."