During her nearly 300-day detainment in Russia, Brittney Griner didn’t think she would play basketball again let alone represent her country.
On Tuesday, the two-time Olympic gold medalist expressed her thankfulness for the opportunity to play for Team USA again following her wrongful imprisonment abroad.
“I didn’t think I would ever wear this jersey again. I didn’t know what the future was,” she said during a media session at the USA women’s national team training camp in Atlanta.
After an exhibition game in Tennessee, Griner described it as a “no brainer” to accept the offer to play for the US again.
Griner won gold at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
“It’s just a different feeling when you’re playing with USA at the Olympics, representing the whole country when everybody’s tuning in,” Griner said.
She was detained in February 2022 and sentenced to nine years in prison under drug-smuggling charges after authorities in Russia found cannabis oil in her luggage. The US State Department deemed her wrongfully detained, and Griner was released in a prisoner swap in December 2022 that involved Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The 33-year-old WNBA star for the Phoenix Mercury was asked to predict her mood if she makes the team and is selected to don USA across her chest this summer at the 2024 games in Paris – especially after all that she has experienced since winning gold in Tokyo.
“That moment, listening to our anthem and watching the flag go up, it’s gonna be a lot of emotions. I probably won’t be able to hold that one back,” she said.
“It’s gonna be a lot. Very, very, very few people will understand that emotion.”
Griner said she was looking forward to that moment.
“I’m so ready for it.”
On Sunday, Griner and Team USA faced the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers in an exhibition game. It was Griner’s first national team action since being released from Russian detention 11 months ago.
“Just the joy of being on the court – it was a little overwhelming – but good emotions, though,” she said Tuesday.
Griner scored 11 points in the 95-59 win.
She is writing a book about her detention.
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