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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Griner and Auriemma to be reunited

The last thing Baylor junior center and national player of the year candidate Brittney Griner said to UConn and U.S. senior national team coach Geno Auriemma before heading back to campus after a couple of weeks in Europe was "see you in Waco."

Well, the time for the reunion is quickly approaching.

After a couple of years of trying to get the immensly talented Griner to take part in one of the U.S. senior national team training camps, Auriemma finally got his wish in late September and early October when Griner was there for a series of practices as well as five games against European pro teams.

In the five games the U.S. team played, Griner shared the team scoring lead with former UConn star Tina Charles, had a team-high nine blocked shots and was second on the team with seven rebounds per game. Griner was the leading scorer for the U.S. team in two of the five games. She scored in double figures in the first four games she played including scoring 22 points in a loss to Ros Casares on Oct. 5.

“It was a great experience playing for Coach Auriemma because he is really passionate and he is a great coach,” Griner said. “He was working on my game, just getting big and just playing to my full ability.”

Auriemma was thrilled that Griner chose to come to the latest training camp and he believes there is a chance she could be a member of the 2012 Olympic team.

"We've always in the three years I have been involved with USA Basketball at this level, you are always trying to figure out what is missing that would make our team better," Auriemma said. "Even after we won the World Championship we sat back and said what we do we have to do to make this team better. Brittney Griner's name was always at the top of the list. How can we get her involved? We realized we couldn't make her do it, nobody could make her do it and we just worked pretty hard with talking with her and
Kim (Mulkey, Baylor's coach) and making sure everybody was on board with what we are trying to do and I think she brings something, there is nobody else in the world like her. I don't care who Australia has, who Russia has or who anybody else has. Nobody has anybody else like Brittney Griner.

"I remember Kara Wolters made the Olympic team to go to Sydney. She was the 12th man on the team. She knew she was there just in case in a three-minute stretch she was going to have to play. She never had to because they didn't need her. Brittney Griner might make the Olympic team and might play 20 minutes every night or there might be two games in one game where she wins the game and we win the gold medal because there are things that she can do than nobody else can do on any other team in the world."

Auriemma tells the story of how dominating Griner could be during half-court drills courtesy of her rare dunking ability.

"What I am used to see in drills is stuff we are doing in breakdowns, you throw the ball in there and you work on your post moves and then you realize that every post move she is working on ends with a dunk, one-handed, two-handed," Auriemma said. "You just kind of smile and say I haven't seen that in one of my practices since I coached the guys' AAU team that my son played on. That is how those guys would end
every drill. I just started smiling and saying it must be good to go to practice. I found myself saying that. We would work on something in a game, we are going to screen here and take it, slip the screen and dunk it. She would go 'OK', slip it and dunk it. I was saying 'guys coaches have it easy.'"

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