Marta Xargay did not want to go hiking in Papago Park on Sunday.
But her girlfriend, Breanna Stewart, insisted, saying it was a chance for them to spend time with a friend they hadn’t seen for a while.
“I was complaining because she wanted to go hiking,” Xargay said Tuesday. “You know Phoenix is super hot so I was just like I don’t want to be outside. She planned the whole day, telling me let’s go for a walk, do something, take pictures. I was like OK, let’s do it.”
As the women’s basketball world now know, WNBA superstar Stewart, back from playing overseas in Russia but not yet at Seattle Storm training camp, had an ulterior motive. She proposed to Xargay during the hike with their friend documenting the moment for them and social media.
It happened in Phoenix because Spanish guard Xargay is here in Phoenix Mercury camp, hoping to regain a roster spot with a team she played for in 2015 and 206.
“I wasn’t expecting that to happen,” Xargay said. “In the end, it turned out to be a really good day.”
Xargay, done with her required quarantine, participated in her first team practice Tuesday and first chance to receive congratulations from her Mercury teammates.
“They were super excited,” she said. “Everybody was so happy. It’s a happy moment so I guess everybody enjoys those kind of moments. Everybody wants to enjoy it too. I’m glad they were happy for us, and I’m happy too.”
Xargay is 30 and Stewart, WNBA 2018 Most Valuable Player and recent EuroLeague Final Four MVP, is 26. They have been dating for a while including last year when the WNBA season was played in a bubble in Bradenton, Florida.
“She’s super excited, we’re very happy for her,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “They’re a wonderful couple. I said you’ll always remember you got engaged in Phoenix. We wish them the best.”
The Mercury host defending WNBA champion Seattle in a preseason game Saturday, but Stewart is not expected to play.
Even given her WNBA experience, Xargay faces a tough fight to make what will be an 11-player Mercury roster due to salary cap restrictions. Perimeter players who are roster locks include Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Bria Hartley, Kia Nurse and probably Megan Walker.
That leaves Xargay, Sophie Cunningham, Shey Peddy and Tiana Mangakahia battling for one or two spots depending on whether the Mercury keep four or five posts.
“I just want to help the team as much as I can,” she said. “The first day is always a little bit awkward because they have been working for almost two weeks. Sandy always tells me the same, do your game, do your best, try to help your teammates and that’s what we need from you.”
Brondello said the 5-11 Xargay, a 2016 Olympian, brings “toughness, smarts and aggressiveness. She’s another tall guard who can play at both ends of the floor. We’ll see what she can give us in camp.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8053. Follow him on Twitter @jeffmetcalfe.
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