May 23, 2024

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WNBA star Brittney Griner offers advice to Caitlin Clark (Exclusive)

WNBA star Brittney Griner offers advice to Caitlin Clark (Exclusive)

With Kaitlyn Clark having already made a splash (and a bank) as the No. 1 overall pick by the Indiana Fever in the 2024 WNBA Draft, the player in her position is offering words of support — and a word of caution.

“The buzz that Caitlyn and some of the others have right now is amazing for the league,” says Brittney Greiner, 33, who details her 10-month detention in Russia in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “There’s good talent coming in.”

Greiner, who recently re-signed with the Phoenix Mercury, the team she spent 10 seasons with after becoming the team’s No. 1 overall pick in 2013, understands the hype that comes with being considered a “generational” player. The 6’9″ center was already throwing top-notch dunks as an 18-year-old high school student in Houston, Texas. (I dunked 52 times in 32 games, Go viral In the process.) As the No. 1 high school student in the country, Griner committed to Baylor University, where she was a three-time All-American, AP Player of the Year, NCAA National Champion, and 2012 ESPY Award Winner for Outstanding Female Athlete .

Caitlin Clark poses with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected as the first overall pick by the Indiana Fever during the 2024 WNBA Draft at Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 15, 2024 in New York City.

Sarah Steer/Getty

Despite the accolades, Greiner remembers the difficult transition to the next level. “It’s different, when you go from college to the pros,” Greiner says of what Clark and others will face in the WNBA. “I went from the best to my numbers going down a little bit. You’re up against adult women. This is how they feed their families. And it’s not just for the love of [game]. This is their source of livelihood.”

WNBA President Laurel Richie poses with Brittney Griner after she was drafted number one overall by the Phoenix Mercury during the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm on April 15, 2013 on ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty

Greiner, who describes her 2013 rookie season as “eye-opening,” says Clark, 22, will have to adjust her game to match the tougher competition. “I had to get stronger, pull myself together a little bit more. There’s going to be some growth.” [pains] “For her, but she’ll be fine.”

She admits that she followed the NCAA women’s tournament closely, and that she… It wasn’t Rooting for Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes – no disrespect intended. As it happens, Greiner’s old friend, mentor and former Team USA coach Don Staley is the current coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, who defeated Iowa on April 7 in the final.

“I saw [Staley] In the Final Four, right before the national championship. I told her: Go and get it. That’s for you.’ I just knew South Carolina was going to win. The way Dawn prepares — I’ve said this many times — the way she prepares these young ladies for basketball, but it also prepares them for life…. She really cares about how they grow as people and grow in society. It’s amazing what you do.

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks is showered with candy after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 87-75 in the 2024 NCAA women’s basketball championship game between Iowa and South Carolina at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Thien Anh Truong/ISI/Getty Images

Greiner thanks Staley in her memoir, Go homeFor the work she did to keep her in the public consciousness while she was detained in Russia. “While I was in Russia, my greatest fear was to be forgotten,” she wrote in appreciation. “Thank you for reminding the world of me daily on social media. I spoke my name to anyone who would listen. And so should you I missed your visit To the White House to bring my wife [Cherelle Griner] Meeting with President Biden. You are a strength and a friend.”

The Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever will meet for the first time this season on June 30, potentially putting Clark and Greiner on the field at the same time. By then, the two could also be teammates on Team USA; The selection committee will name the final list of 12 women in early summer. Griner, a two-time veteran, should be a lock. And Clarke, although young, could prove too good to be denied a place.

Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury shoots the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Sparks on July 9, 2023 at Foot Print Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty

Whether at the Olympics or in the WNBA, Griner says she still has more to prove, but she will be true to herself when it comes time to wrap up her career.

“I used to say I would play until the wheels fell off,” she says. “But when I can’t produce the way I want, I’ll stop working. I don’t want to push the envelope or hold the team back. When I can’t spend time with them anymore, I’ll [retire]. Whatever the number [of seasons] that it.”

Greiner memoirs, Go homewith Michelle Burford, is Available at present.

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