Courtside with Brianna Turner
An unfiltered Q&A with WNBA players — past and present.
Hello and welcome to Courtside.
Take a break from the game. Pull up a chair. Settle in. Have some water. And relax.
As often as I can, I’ll be bringing you honest, revealing and fun Q&As with some of the greatest players in WNBA history as well as rookies, veterans and All-Stars in the league today.
Now, let’s get to the conversation.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images
Brianna Turner, 24, is a WNBA All-Rookie Team member (2019) and forward for the Phoenix Mercury. She was drafted 11th overall by the Atlanta Dream in the 2019 WNBA Draft and was quickly traded to the Mercury in exchange for Marie Gülich. Turner spent her college career at Notre Dame under legendary women’s basketball coach, Muffet McGraw. She suffered an ACL injury during the 2017 NCAA Tournament and was chose to sit out the following season (2017 - 2018). When she returned to the court for her final season in fall 2018, it was if she hadn’t skipped a beat— she averaged 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Turner was also selected as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year three times in a row and finished her career for the Irish as the all-time leader in rebounds (1,048) and blocks (372).
“We’ve sorely needed it too. She’s a defensive presence in the lane. She’s a shot blocker. She’s a great communicator on the back line. She can switch out and guard a point guard. She does so many things for us. She’s been a huge difference in our team.”
— Former Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach, Muffet McGraw in March 2019 during the NCAA Tournament on Turner’s defensive impact. (Chicago Tribune)
During the 2020 WNBA season, Turner saw increased minutes when Mercury All-Star center Brittney Griner left the bubble due to personal reasons. Turner made the most of the opportunity, averaging seven points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game. Coaches around the league took note of her defensive effort, and Turner was selected to the 2020 WNBA All-Defensive First Team.
Turner, a vocal presence on social media, also appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter over the summer, to share her insightful, personal perspective on police brutality and racism as the daughter of two police officers:
How good did it feel to get drafted 11th overall in the 2019 WNBA Draft after suffering an ACL injury and having to sit out for the 2017-2018 season?
It felt really good to get drafted. That was my childhood dream, to make it professionally and play in the WNBA. Going through college and (having to sit out), made it even better, knowing I was able to persevere through those injuries.
You were originally drafted by the Atlanta Dream and then traded to the Phoenix Mercury. What were you thinking when that happened and how excited were you to get to Phoenix?
I was real excited to get drafted by Atlanta. And then I was watching, and a few minutes later a little banner on the bottom said that I had been traded to Phoenix. So, I hadn’t even processed the trade by Atlanta in that time yet, so I was excited to go to Phoenix.
What was it like being a rookie on a team with Diana Taurasi?
Really exciting. I mean, she had a couple of injuries last season so she didn’t get to play as much. But she was such a great vocal leader and, yeah, she’s just such a great leader — even when she’s not on the court with you.
She’s, like, very sarcastic and always making jokes but nothing out of the ordinary.
When Skylar Diggins-Smith signed with the Mercury as a free agent in this season, did you bond at all over your Notre Dame connection?
Of course. We obviously have that connection and it’s something we always talk about, whether we were talking about Coach McGraw or just keeping up with the team, like Niele (Ivey) getting the head coaching job. It’s really cool to play with other Notre Dame alumni.
Just like Diana, Sky’s such a great leader and role model, always willing to talk to you or if you have questions, she always easy to go to and talk to about the game.
You made incredible strides this season, especially taking on a bigger role after Brittney Griner left the bubble. How do you feel your game has improved overall?
I think from last year to this year, I just became more confident. I think last year, I’d always second guess what I did. But this year, I was kind of like, go with the flow and tell myself, there will always be a next play. So, I think my confidence level definitely rose this year.
I really pride myself on defense. And even before the season, one of my goals was to make it on to one of the defensive teams. So, I was really excited when I got selected.
Like many other WNBA players, you have been very outspoken on Twitter about the disparity between women’s and men’s sports, social justice issues and the 2020 election. Why do you feel it’s important weigh in on these topics on social media?
They are just such reoccurring topics, and it just happens so often in my life — like whether it’s talking about the disparity or talking about politics — they just impact our lives so much. I can’t help myself, (laughs) but to speak on it.
What’s something about you that people would be surprised to know or wouldn’t expect?
Honestly, I don’t know, I’m so boring (laughs).
Um . . . I really like do puzzles — jigsaw puzzles, LEGO sets, I like to play puzzle games on my phone.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Could be a song, movie, food, etc.?
Definitely food. I like to eat and I like to cook, so I’m always looking for new recopies to try to make or recreate meals I’ve had at restaurants. So definitely, anything food-related.
What are you up to for the offseason?
I’ve been spending time at home right now, but I’m actually headed to Russia (to play for Nika Syktyvkar). So I only have a few more days at home. But, right now, I’ve just been enjoying time with family and working out. That’s about it. I get to come back home for Christmas, but I’ll be in Russia (maybe) until April.
Spread the ball around
If you enjoy Courtside and the additional insight into WNBA players on and off the court, pass it along to a few of your WNBA-loving friends. They might enjoy it, too!
Get in touch
If there’s a player you’d like me to have a Courtside chat with, let me know. And if you have any burning questions you’d like them to answer, suggest one or two. I will try to slip it into the conversation!