How Griner’s absence impacts Group USA at 2022 FIBA World Cup



The 2022 FIBA World Cup would be the first main competitors that the U.S. girls’s basketball workforce will compete in with out Phoenix Mercury heart Brittney Griner for the reason that 2012 Summer time Olympics. The World Cup, which begins Wednesday in Sydney, might be a poignant marker for the ladies’s basketball world that one among its most recognizable stars of the previous decade is going through 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 america to alleviate ache from power accidents, however it’s unlawful in Russia. She was given a nine-year sentence in August, and now she awaits the potential for a U.S.-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 whole thing of the season,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx stated. “She’s on our minds every day, and we’ll honor her. Nobody will put on 15. So simply discovering methods to proceed to verify she is aware of that she’s being considered and our gamers are pondering of her every day.”

Griner, the No. 1 WNBA draft decide in 2013, has been an enthusiastic participant in USA Basketball senior nationwide workforce 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. Within the Tokyo Olympics final yr, Griner averaged 16.5 factors, tied for the U.S. 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 U.S. teammate in Tokyo. “Attending 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 somewhat further motivation for everybody, I feel, who steps on the courtroom and knew her, to play for her. As a result of she gave all the things she had each single time she was a part of any basketball workforce, and undoubtedly USA Basketball.”

The Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles, Seattle’s Tina Charles and Griner are veteran facilities who’ve lengthy been standouts of the Individuals’ inside recreation. However none of them might be taking part in on this World Cup.

Fowles, who turns 37 subsequent month, has retired, whereas Charles, 33, seems to be completed together with her USA Basketball profession. Fowles received gold medals in 4 Olympics and one World Cup, whereas Charles received three golds in every. Griner, who might 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 U.S. girls will miss Brittney Griner on the World Cup

These 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 three-pointer has been a a lot larger a part of the 6-4 Charles’ recreation, as she has made 174 within the common season. Charles is the one one of many three who has made a 3-pointer within the Olympics or World Cup; she had three treys within the Tokyo Video games.

With out that trio, 2022 WNBA MVP Wilson, 26, and Seattle ahead Breanna Stewart, 28, are essentially the most skilled publish gamers on the present U.S. roster. The 6-5 Wilson simply received the WNBA title with the Aces on Sunday, and might be arriving late in Australia. The 6-4 Stewart led america in rebounding (10.0 RPG) on the Tokyo Video games, the place she averaged 15.0 factors.

Newcomer publish gamers on the U.S. workforce might 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’re all gifted posts, however america will not have the identical dimension or worldwide expertise with out Fowles, Charles and Griner. And whereas Fowles and Charles weren’t anticipated to be a part of this U.S. workforce, 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 doable, hoping that she’s doing nearly as good as she might be beneath the circumstances, however realizing that she has such a giant position in USA Basketball from how she dominates on the courtroom and is a caring human being off the courtroom.

“It is robust as a result of you’ve these moments the place it is like, ‘She ought to be right here, she can be right here’ and in addition on 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.”

Other than no American carrying Griner’s jersey quantity from previous competitions, what is going to Group USA do to honor her? FIBA has some restrictions about political statements made in the course of the occasion, and the Individuals are conscious of that. However 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 executed to attempt to get Griner launched.

“I feel we’ll proceed to talk out, to proceed to amplify her identify, put stress as a lot as we will on the White Home,” 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.

“However I feel one of the simplest ways to signify her and honor her goes and successful the gold medal.”

ESPN’s Alexa Philippou contributed to this report.

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