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Griner eager to make Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro
ISTANBUL (2016 Rio Olympics) - USA Basketball have not announced their women's squad for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, yet. It's hard to imagine an American team, though, that does not have Brittney Griner.
A towering presence in the paint, Griner is one of a kind. She has already tasted success with the USA, excelling at the 2014 FIBA Women's World Championship in Turkey. The Houston native helped the Americans reach the top of the podium for the second time in a row at the event.
Griner dunked, blocked shots, hit jumpers and grabbed rebounds. And she had plenty of fun while doing so.
Griner earned a place on the All-Star Five with fellow American Maya Moore. In the very near future, the powerful pivot, who over the weekend captured a EuroLeague Women crown with UMMC Ekaterinburg, will turn her attention to the Olympics. She knows that most of America's greatest players have graced the stages of Summer Games over the years and she is eager to do so herself.
"Me playing with USA, I can't wait," Griner said to FIBA.com. "It will be my first one so I'm just excited and ready to experience that."
Griner was terrific in 2014 but, by her own admission, was far from the complete package. There were areas of her game that she wanted to work on after the World Championship. The 25-year-old has clearly improved.
"I think it has changed a little bit, a couple of different moves," she said.
I've kind of stolen a move from Dirk (Nowitzki). I like that baseline fadeaway. - Griner
The 2.03m center showed a soft touch in Istanbul last weekend, where the EuroLeague Women Final Four was staged. Her shooting stroke was smooth and accurate.
"I've had to develop it," she said. "It definitely wasn't there, but it's something I work on."
Griner (USA) won the EuroLeague Women title with Ekaterinburg
Griner in late February went to Connecticut to take part in a USA Basketball mini-camp. Because of the WNBA season, the USA players will not have nearly as much time as the other Olympic sides to get ready for the Summer Games so a chance to meet up with other national team hopefuls and the coaching staff was invaluable.
"It was good," she said. "I was just getting back from a vacation but it's always good being there, at UConn, their practice facility, a great facility there, and they accommodated us very well."
One of the benefits that Griner has had at the start of her career is that she has been a UMMC Ekaterinburg teammate of USA's three-time Olympic champion, Diana Taurasi. The two were instrumental in Ekaterinburg's title-winning campaign in the EuroLeague Women this season.
It's definitely so much fun to play with Taurasi and play against so many great players overseas, in the States. It just makes you a better player. - Griner
Griner couldn't help but marvel when Taurasi and her Phoenix Mercury teammate, DeWanna Bonner of Nadezhda Orenburg, staged a 3-point shooting contest in the second half of the EuroLeague Women Final on Sunday. Bonner's 3-pointers were, in fact, taken several steps behind the arc.
First Bonner struck, then Taurasi, then Bonner, then Taurasi. Kayla McBride, another USA Olympic hopeful who plays for Nadezhda, also nailed one to make it five consecutive 3-pointers in the game.
Griner, who made plenty of eye-opening reel plays herself at the Final Four, laughed when asked about that explosion from long range.
"For the post players, we were getting a break because it was like 3, 3, 3, 3, 3," she said. "I know those two players (Taurasi and Bonner) very well. I'm going to tell DeWanna she better hit those same 3s when we get Phoenix."