The 2022 FIBA World Cup can be the first main competitors that the US girls’s basketball group will compete in with out Phoenix Mercury middle Brittney Griner since the 2012 Summer Olympics. The World Cup, which begins Wednesday in Sydney, can be a poignant marker for the girls’s basketball world that one in every of its most recognizable stars of the previous decade is dealing with an unsure future in a Russian jail.
Griner has been detained since February, when she was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her baggage. Griner had been prescribed medical hashish in the United States to alleviate ache from continual accidents, however it’s unlawful in Russia. She was given a nine-year sentence in August, and now she awaits the chance of a US-Russia prisoner swap, together with fellow American detainee Paul Whelan.
“She actually has [been a stalwart of USA Basketball] and that is one thing our gamers have handled the entirety of the season,” US coach Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx stated. “She’s on our minds day by day, and we’ll honor her. No one will put on 15. So simply discovering methods to proceed to ensure she is aware of that she’s being considered and our gamers are pondering of her day by day.”
Griner, the No. 1 WNBA draft decide in 2013, has been an enthusiastic participant in USA Basketball senior nationwide group occasions since she made the squad for the 2014 World Cup, which she performed in simply a few weeks after successful the WNBA title with the Mercury. In the Tokyo Olympics final yr, Griner averaged 16.5 factors, tied for the US lead with Las Vegas Aces ahead A’ja Wilson, and seven.2 rebounds.
“She’s a giant a part of our sisterhood,” stated Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd, who was Griner’s US teammate in Tokyo. “Getting to know her over the previous couple years has been nice. She has been nothing however wonderful to me and my household. And it is simply heartbreaking to know that she’s nonetheless over there and he or she’s not right here.
“So it is a bit further motivation for everybody, I believe, who steps on the court docket and knew her, to play for her. Because she gave every part she had each single time she was a part of any basketball group, and positively USA Basketball.”
The Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles, Seattle’s Tina Charles and Griner are veteran facilities who’ve lengthy been standouts of the Americans’ inside recreation. But none of them can be taking part in on this World Cup.
Fowles, who turns 37 subsequent month, has retired, whereas Charles, 33, seems to be completed along with his USA Basketball profession. Fowles gained gold medals in 4 Olympics and one World Cup, whereas Charles gained three golds in every. Griner, who can be 32 in October, has two gold medals in every occasion.
“To not have BG right here, clearly, it is an irreplaceable void.”
Breanna Stewart on how the US girls will miss Brittney Griner at the World Cup
Those three gamers are all extra conventional low-block threats. The 6-foot-9 Griner has made 6 of 17 3-point makes an attempt in her regular-season WNBA profession, and the 6-6 Fowles made her one try in 2010. The 3-pointer has been a a lot larger a part of the 6 -4 Charles’ recreation, as she has made 174 in the common season. Charles is the solely one in every of the three who has made a 3-pointer in the Olympics or World Cup; she had three treys in the Tokyo Games.
Without that trio, 2022 WNBA MVP Wilson, 26, and Seattle ahead Breanna Stewart, 28, are the most skilled publish gamers on the present US roster. The 6-5 Wilson simply gained the WNBA title with the Aces on Sunday, and can be arriving late in Australia. The 6-4 Stewart led the United States in rebounding (10.0 RPG) at the Tokyo Games, the place she averaged 15.0 factors.
Newcomer publish gamers on the US group can be 6-5 C/F Shakira Austin, 22, who simply completed her rookie season with the Washington Mystics, and Connecticut Sun teammates 6-3 ahead Brionna Jones, 26, and 6-2 ahead Alyssa Thomas, 30, who have been the runners-up this WNBA season.
They are all gifted posts, however the United States will not have the similar measurement or worldwide expertise with out Fowles, Charles and Griner. And whereas Fowles and Charles weren’t anticipated to be a part of this US group, Griner was. “To not have BG right here, clearly, it is an irreplaceable void,” Stewart stated. “We’re actually simply hoping that she’s going to be residence as quickly as attainable, hoping that she’s doing pretty much as good as she will be below the circumstances, however understanding that she has such a giant function in USA Basketball from how she dominates on the court docket and is a caring human being off the court docket.
“It’s robust as a result of you might have these moments the place it is like, ‘She needs to be right here, she could be right here’ and likewise at the similar time, it is larger than basketball. Having her be residence secure and wholesome and again together with her household is the No 1 precedence.”
Aside from no American sporting Griner’s jersey quantity from previous competitions, what’s going to Team USA do to honor her? FIBA has some restrictions relating to political statements made throughout the occasion, and the Americans are conscious of that. But Griner’s WNBA friends see this as a humanitarian problem involving their colleague and pal.
Griner’s spouse, Cherelle Griner, met with President Biden on Friday to debate what’s being finished to attempt to get Griner launched.
“I believe we’ll proceed to talk out, to proceed to amplify her title, put stress as a lot as we will on the White House,” Stewart stated. “It was wonderful that Cherelle was capable of meet with President Biden, and hopefully that implies that issues are persevering with to maneuver ahead with getting her residence.
“But I believe the finest strategy to characterize her and honor her goes and successful the gold medal.”
ESPN’s Alexa Philippou contributed to this report.