Commentary

Don't let the reedy frame fool you

DeWanna Bonner is a three-time WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year

Updated: September 25, 2013, 3:35 PM ET
By Michelle Smith | espnW.com

DeWanna BonnerBarry Gossage/NBAE/Getty ImagesNeither protein diets nor high-calorie shakes have helped DeWanna Bonner bulk up.

The joke in the Phoenix Mercury locker room is that DeWanna Bonner shouldn't be a basketball player.

"She should be a 10,000-meter runner," chuckled teammate Diana Taurasi. "We tease her about that a lot."

That body, the long, thin arms, the legs so slender they look like they might break under the pressure of a full-on sprint down the court, they just don't seem to fit for professional basketball.

[+] EnlargeDiana Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesDeWanna Bonner impresses her teammates. "The way she gets the ball to the basket is so impressive," Penny Taylor said. "I watch her and shake my head and think, 'That should not be possible.'"

It's not like Bonner doesn't know.

Coaches have been trying to bulk her up for as long as she can remember. Protein diets, high-calorie shakes and smoothies, she has tried it all.

"None of it worked," Bonner said. "I have a really high metabolism. It always just burned right off."

She has been called "slim," "beanpole," "broomstick." Even "the human pencil."

Oh, and a WNBA champion.

Her athleticism belies her reedy frame. Bonner might have trouble banging in the post with the biggest players on the floor in the WNBA -- and she's willing to admit that much -- but it has never stopped her from being a very productive player on both ends of the floor.

At 6 feet, 4 inches and 137 pounds, Bonner has one of the most versatile games in the league, the length to play near the basket in stretches, and a great perimeter game, including the ability to handle the ball like a point guard and hit the 3-point shot. The fact that she's all sharp elbows and knees is just part of the package.

"To look at her, you wouldn't think she has the strength because of her frame, but she has basketball strength," teammate Penny Taylor said. "She knows how to use her body to be effective.

"She's so flexible and the way she gets the ball to the basket is so impressive. Even now I watch her and shake my head and think, 'That should not be possible.'"

Mercury president and COO Amber Cox calls Bonner "a unique talent."

"She can do just about anything on the basketball court," Cox said. "DeWanna will do anything to help the team and she doesn't care."

Mercury vice president and Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale said Bonner reminds her of former NBA stars Jamaal Wilkes and Reggie Miller. Or perhaps even current star Kevin Durant.

"We've had a few women in the game who have had that body type," Meyers Drysdale said. "People have said about those players that they are too thin, the game's too physical, they are going to get hurt. But DeWanna gets it done. There's something special about her."

Phoenix wants to keep her in the fold. The Mercury re-signed Bonner to a multiyear deal in the spring.

Bonner is still emerging on a team full of stars. She was drafted into the WNBA out of Auburn in 2009, became Phoenix's spark off the bench and played a big role in the Mercury's title run that season.

For three years running, she was named the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, the only player ever to win the award that many times.

"They should name the award after her after that," Cox said.

Last season, Phoenix asked her to play a different role. With injuries to Taurasi, Taylor and Candice Dupree, Bonner became the Mercury's go-to offensive option. She responded by averaging 20.6 points a game -- good for second in the league -- to go with 7.2 rebounds a game.

And now, with Taurasi and Dupree back on the floor, plus the addition of super-rookie Brittney Griner, Bonner has remained in the starting lineup at small forward, but not quite as the offensive focus she was a year ago.

Bonner was the Mercury's third-leading scorer in the regular season (behind Taurasi and Dupree), averaging 14.5 points a game and leading the team with 39 steals. She is the franchise leader in career double-doubles with 19.

"Everything we've asked of her, she's been willing to do and she never complains. Ever," Taurasi said.

Meyers-Drysdale points out that Bonner is still a relatively young player with the best years of her career still ahead.

"To me, she's still learning the game. She's going to get better," Meyers Drysdale said. "Players really figure it out their sixth, seventh year. She has a lot to add to her game."

Cox said that Bonner is perhaps her "favorite person on the planet."

"She's just the most joyful individual I've ever been around," Cox said. "I don't know that I've ever seen her without a smile on her face. She lights up a room. "

Michelle Smith

Contributor, espnW.com

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