July 30, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) Australian star Penny Taylor is calling it a career.

The 35-year-old told The Associated Press that she would retire from playing basketball at the end of the WNBA season. She helped lead the Phoenix Mercury to three WNBA titles and guided Australia to a world championship in 2006.

''My focus is on the Olympics, but definitely it's my last year,'' Taylor said. ''Worked really hard to get back and still be good. I want to go out on a good note. My health is something I really had to work hard at, and to be fit and stay out on the floor, I've done that really well. For me, it's the right time.''

Taylor was able to avoid injuries early in a playing career that started when she was 15. Lately, her body has been breaking down a bit, starting with a torn ACL that forced her to miss the 2012 Olympics and 15 months of playing time. This season she's been dealing with hip issues that caused her to miss the final few games of the WNBA season before the Olympic break.

''There is a time when you have to retire. I want to retire when I'm still good,'' she said Friday night. ''I nearly had it all taken away from me. I want to make that decision and still want to be wanted. I still feel like I'm still contributing out there.''

The one thing missing from Taylor's impressive basketball resume is an Olympic gold medal. She was the MVP of the 2006 world championship in Brazil.

''When you talk about the Mount Rushmore of basketball, if you had one for the world, she'd probably be the first person on there,'' Mercury teammate Diana Taurasi said. ''She's just done so much for Australian basketball, leading them to a world championship, putting them in a position every year to win a medal. She holds that close to her heart.''

Taurasi also was quick to point out that Taylor was a trailblazer for other Australians to be able to play in Europe and make a living. Taylor played in Turkey and Russia.

''She opened so many doors for everyone in that country to go to Europe,'' Taurasi said. ''She made it OK to leave Australia when no one left to play overseas. What she did in the WNBA, if there's a five you pick to go win a game, there's no one I pick over Penny.''

Taylor was selected 11th in the 2001 WNBA draft by the Cleveland Rockers. When that team folded in 2003, she was picked up by the Mercury and helped them win titles in 2007, 2009 and 2014.

''We're the last two from our class,'' said Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever, who was drafted third in 2001 and also will retire at the end of this season. ''We've had some really good battles. When I think of Penny, I think of Game 5 of the 2009 WNBA championship, how clutch she was.''

Taylor has averaged 13.3 points in her 13-year WNBA career.

''Penny is one of those players that at times gets overlooked,'' Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm said. ''It might be the whole Australian playing in the WNBA at times. I don't know why she wasn't in the top 20. Look at Penny's career and I think it's a no-brainer for her to be on that team. What makes her game so difficult is her ability to score and put pressure on your defense at all times.''

Taylor helped Australia win silver medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and would love to see that stage of her career end with a gold in Rio. She hopes to enter the coaching ranks after the WNBA season ends.

''I've gotten to the point where I'm seeing it more as a coach these days,'' Taylor said. ''It's the natural progression over the last few years anyway. Playing for Sandy (Brondello), I really admire her and the way she sees the game. I'd like to continue learning from her.''

Taylor smiled when asked if she would like to be on the sideline for Australia at the 2018 world championship in Spain or the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

''Who knows, that's so far away,'' she said. ''I'd like to coach. I enjoy it. I love the game, love seeing it played well.''

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