Texas homecoming for Griner in WNBA star's 1st game there since Russian release
Brittney Griner had a Texas homecoming, in private and on the court with the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA star's home state six months after her release from a Russian prison.
The only thing really missing was a victory.
Even before the first of consecutive games against the Dallas Wings, Griner was getting shouts of encouragement while out eating with teammates. And less than two hours before Wednesday night's game, she met in private with the women's basketball team from Baylor, the campus 100 miles away where she was part of a 40-0 national championship in 2012.
"Close to home, AAU team is here, my high school came up, Baylor came down. I was really, really, really, really happy to see the Baylor team. That meant a lot having them here," said Griner, who also had family from Houston and Little Rock at the game.
When the starting lineups were introduced before Phoenix's 84-79 loss, Griner got a rousing ovation from the crowd of 4,242. She responded by applauding to the crowd, then made a jumper on the game's first shot for the first of her 24 points.
"It was just a lot of support. It was just good seeing everybody and just being back in Texas. I mean miss being here, so it was really cool," she said. "When I came out, the love, that meant a lot to me."
The Mercury were on the road for only the second time this season. It is the first time for Griner to play in her home state since before she missed all of last season while detained in Russia for nearly 10 months on drug-related charges that ended with a prisoner swap in December.
Wings forward Satou Sabally, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds, said it means a lot to have Griner back.
"Last year we played without her and it was just weird, something was missing," Sabally said. "And now everything is back to normal."
Phoenix and Dallas play again Friday night, when the game is already sold out in the arena on the University of Texas-Arlington campus that can hold about 7,000 fans.
"This is a joyful distraction as opposed to what we all went through last year," Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said. "Every city last year, it was the BG game, but not the BG game like this, so extremely grateful to have her back. We can't forget the miracle that it is that she is here."
Dallas coach Latricia Trammell said the highlight of her day was giving Griner a big hug when the Mercury were coming onto the court for their morning shootaround as the Wings were finishing their session.
"It just was an emotional moment for all of us," Trammell said. "Just honoured and blessed that she's on the floor safe, healthy. And like she told me, she goes, it's all happiness from here."
Griner also shared hugs with Wings players Odyssey Sims and Kalani Brown, both former Baylor players. Sims was a teammate of Griner's on the undefeated national title team, while Brown was part of the Bears' national championship in 2019.
Brown used to go to camps at Baylor when Griner was playing there -- "BG does not like me to pull that camp picture out," Brown said with a smile.
Now that Griner is back on the court, Brown said it is important that she knows how much everyone was pulling for her and praying for her in a difficult time.
"I'm glad that that situation didn't dim her light, because she is the sweetest person. Every encounter we have, I've never had a negative one," Brown said. "I'm so glad that didn't change her."
When the current Baylor players met with Griner, they presented her with a commemorative frame featuring the "BG42" patch that the Bears wore on their jerseys throughout last season, even after Griner was freed.
Nicki Collen, who just finished her second season as Baylor's coach, said her goal is to retire Griner's No. 42 jersey, as early as the upcoming season when the school opens its new basketball arena. No one has worn that number for the Bears since Griner's senior season in 2012-13, the last time she was on campus for a game.
"I do think one of the things that BG wants is just to truly feel welcomed at Baylor," Collen said. "So to have the opportunity to connect the dots will be really huge for our program."
Griner, who has since finished her Baylor degree, said she would love to see her jersey hanging in the rafters, and looks forward to getting back to a game on the Waco campus.
"Played some my best basketball there, and met some really amazing people there," Griner said. "I can't wait to go back. I mean, it's safe to say I'm never going overseas to play ball again. So, you know, in the offseason I'll be able to actually go and see games and be there."
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Wab Kinew’s New Democratic Party is projected to have enough seats in the Manitoba Legislature to form a majority government, taking the helm after two consecutive terms of a majority Tory regime.
The couple and dog mauled and killed by a grizzly bear in the backcountry of Banff National Park late last week did everything right, Parks Canada says.
A Junior C hockey player says he is lucky to be alive after his neck was sliced open by a hockey skate last week in an act his parents believe – and the referee ruled – was an intentional kick.
Manitobans have cast their vote in a historic election. The CTV News Decision Desk has declared an NDP majority win, making NDP Leader and Premier-elect Wab Kinew the first First Nations premier in the province. Take a look at the election night in Manitoba.
Multiple people were shot at Morgan State University in Baltimore on Tuesday, according to police, who urged students to take shelter on the campus of the historically Black college.
Amid consistent interest rate hikes and wavering markets, Canadian condo sales are starting to fall in all but two markets in the nation, according to a new report from Re/Max.
U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of the job Tuesday in an extraordinary showdown, a first in U.S. history that was forced by a contingent of hard-right conservatives and threw the House and its Republican leadership into chaos.
Canadian National Railway Co. experienced a network-wide system failure on Tuesday that affected Via, GO and other trains in Ontario. The issue was resolved and service was restored Tuesday night.
The Maritimes have been on an extended run of very fair weather the last two weeks while under a persistent ridge of high pressure. Unfortunately, that pattern changes this weekend with the approach of a weather front from the west and a likely post-tropical storm Philippe from the south.
Liberal MP Greg Fergus is Canada's new House of Commons Speaker, following a secret ranked ballot election on Tuesday. It is a day for the political history books as Fergus, once a parliamentary page, becomes the first Black Canadian to hold the prestigious role.
Canada needs diplomats in India to help navigate the 'extremely challenging' tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in response to demands that Ottawa repatriate dozens of its envoys.
Independent MP Han Dong said on Tuesday that he's still waiting for word on whether or not he can return to the Liberal caucus, but he hopes it will happen as soon as possible.
A first-of-its-kind study by the University of Ottawa has discovered a lack of information on what data and information is collected on children from food service apps.
The biggest jump in Ontario emergency room visits and hospitalizations for eating disorders during the first 30 months of the pandemic was seen in adolescents aged 10 to 17, according to a new study.
The Biden administration took aim Tuesday at the fentanyl trafficking threat, announcing a series of indictments and sanctions against Chinese companies and executives blamed for importing the chemicals used to make the deadly drug.
Three scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their work on how electrons move around the atom during the tiniest fractions of seconds, a field that could one day lead to better electronics or disease diagnoses.
Meta Platforms is looking to introduce ad-free subscription plans for Instagram and Facebook users in Europe, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
Ancient builders across the world created structures that are still standing today, thousands of years later -- from Roman engineers who poured thick concrete sea barriers, to Maya masons who crafted plaster sculptures to their gods, to Chinese builders who raised walls against invaders.
Late-night talk shows are returning Monday after a five-month absence brought on by the Hollywood writers strike, while actors completed the first day of talks that could end their own long work walk-off.
Mariah Carey is bringing Christmas to Toronto a bit earlier this year.
A Los Angeles County Judge ruled Monday that singer Lady Gaga will not have to pay out the US$500,000 reward that she promised for her French bulldogs' safe return following a 2021 dognapping incident.