Brittney Griner Returns To Play For Team USA In Exhibition Game

Brittney Griner Returns To Play For Team USA In Exhibition Game

Brittney Griner is playing in her first game with Team USA since she returned home after being arrested in Moscow in 2022.

A roar filled the gymnasium on Nov. 5 when Brittney Griner was announced as a starter for the U.S. women’s national team in an exhibition match against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

“I actually talked to people that said they were coming specifically to see her and to watch her play,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said, according to ESPN. “And they had become fans throughout her challenges in the last year or so.”

The outlet reported that the last time Griner played with “USA” across the front of a jersey was in August 2021, when she won her second Olympic gold medal. The exhibition match marked Griner’s first time wearing the Olympic team’s jersey in a game since she was arrested for possession of vape canisters containing cannabis oil while traveling from an airport in Moscow.

Diana Taurasi spoke of her Phoenix Mercury Teammate putting in the work to show her appreciation for her country amid her release from prison.

“I think she’s trying to repay it every single day by being on the court and the stuff she’s doing off the court,” Taurasi said. “That’s a huge burden, and she’s willing to carry that.” Taurasi said Griner put on the USA jersey as a way to show her gratitude. 

The U.S. team defeated Tennessee 95-59. Griner sunk her first shot over Jillian Hollingshead within the first five minutes of the game, putting the U.S. ahead 15-7. She stacked up three rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes.

Griner was not available to speak with reporters following the victory. On Nov. 3 she expressed her desire to represent her country again and play with the national team. 

“My dad was law enforcement 30 years, military Vietnam ’68-69 Marine, so I mean, being able to represent my country means a lot,” she said. “Before ball, I actually wanted to actually go into the military, before I found basketball, so this is my way of still representing USA.” 

U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve talked to her coaching staff about how enthusiastic Griner was to rejoin Team USA. “Just seeing her here, the joy, the excitement that she has, I don’t know what she shared with you all, but she looked to me like she was pretty excited to be back,” Reeve said.

In preparation for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the U.S. team will begin training camp in Atlanta on Nov. 7 and play in another exhibition at Duke on Nov. 12. The U.S. team has the opportunity to win their 8th gold medal in a row.   

Team USA is currently in the process of evaluating players before releasing the final roster for the Paris Games.

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