AZ Central: Brittney Griner used China play to grow on, off the court

5 Posted by - September 8, 2014 - Mercury, News

It must be hard living a life defined by metrics. A 6-foot-8 frame. A 7-2 wingspan. A Size 17 shoe.

Brittney Griner has all those things but she is also a 23-year-old trying to navigate a world that constantly cranes its neck to pass judgment. This offseason, the Mercury center fought back and her efforts are a big reason the team will take the floor on Sunday for Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.

Different things define Griner now. Work ethic. Maturity. Patience. Many of those were shaped in Zhejiang, a coastal province of China, where she played professionally for the Golden Bulls in the offseason.

The experience tested her. Frustrated her. Amused her.

Consider the cab driver who suddenly pulled over so he could relieve himself on the side of the road.

“He stopped the meter,” Griner said. “So at least he wasn’t peeing on my time.”

The opportunity to play in China had its attractions, not the least of which was money. The country has become the go-to place for female players wanting to cash in. The Golden Bulls offered Griner approximately $600,000, more than 10 times what the WNBA paid her. (Though her salary here was complemented by endorsements.)

It was more than that. She finished her first WNBA season feeling unfulfilled. The 12.6 points and 6.3 rebounds were fine, but the transition from college had been an adjustment as she tried to figure out where she fit in.

Griner learned plenty about herself overseas.

“There were a lot of times I just wanted to walk out of the gym,” she said.

When she arrived, she discovered much of the team was on strike because of what players believed was overly harsh behavior by coach Li Xin.

League rules allow only one U.S. player per team, so she was surrounded by Chinese teammates with whom she struggled to connect.

And the expectations? Huge. Losses were blamed on her.

 

(Article via AZ Central)

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