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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Time in Australia did wonders for Kelsey Griffin

When Kelsey Griffin headed to Australia to play for the Bendigo Spirit of the WNBL, her confidence was nearing an all-time low.

Her third season with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun left the former Nebraska All-American and third overall pick in the 2010 WNBA draft at a crossroads.

Three times in the first half of the season her only entry in the box score was the dreaded "did not play -coach's decision."

In the first 18 games of the 2012 season Griffin didn't play more than nine minutes and made more than one field goal just once. Only the absence of Olympian Asjha Jones for a 14 games in August and September due to a strained Achilles gave Griffin a chance for an expanded role. There were a few impactful moments highlighted by a 13-point, 10-rebound effort in an Aug. 30 game at San Antonio. But at season's end Griffin was left with her confidence shaken and her game in shambles.

All of that changed when she headed Down Under for the next stop in the overseas basketball career after stops in Hungary and Israel.

Griffin announced her arrival by ripping off four straight 20-point games. Six games into the season Griffin already had more points and double-doubles than she recorded during the WNBA season.Griffin recorded  nine double-doubles and was third in WNBL in both scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounding (8.6). However, more important to her that recording gaudy individual statistics was that she rediscovered her passion. She also played a key role in Bendigo's run to the WNBL championship averaging 17.5 points and 11 rebounds in the two postseason games. Griffin had 15 points and 11 rebounds as Bendigo beat Townville 71-57 in the Grand Final with Griffin earning championship game MVP honors.

"I really got back to playing my brand of basketball," Griffin said. "I am not even 100 percent there yet but I am definitely well on my way. Instead of so much of trying to fit into being a mold, trying to fit into a certain type of player I just got back to playing the way I play. That is obviously what is best for me and the team and to get back to that kind of basketball is so much easier than previous years when I worried so much about trying to be this turnaround jump shooter, trying to be this kid of scorer instead of just being me."

Griffin was an aggressive and versatile post player during her remarkable run at Nebraska. However, after being a power forward in college, she found herself being asked to play on the wing with the Sun since Connecticut had the dynamic duo of Tina Charles and Asjha Jones to play inside.

While she had her moments, her first three seasons were not what she was expecting,

"It is definitely character building," Griffin said. "I think one of the things that was the most difficult was trying to play a new position and figuring out what was what I needed to be so being here and have Coach (Anne) Donovan say you are going to be a 4 (power forward) and that is what you are going to do is really nice. If she she 'you are going to be a 3 (small forward) and that is what you are going to do' that would have been more challenging, but it would have been nice to have a direction that I knew what I am going to be on this team and know what the coaches need from me so to be able to have that mindset and that focus was helpful as a player."

Griffin's opportunity to play the power forward was opened up by Jones' decision to skip the 2013 WNBA season to recover from a variety of aches and pains..

With Griffin having returned to being the aggressive player she was in college and there plenty of playing time at the power forward, she is hoping to make the biggest impact in her fourth WNBA season which begins tonight when Connecticut hosts the New York Liberty.

"I am at heart an aggressive, physical player," Griffin said. "Now the league is very big and very physical so I am hoping to get back to that aggressiveness but at the same time I have worked very hard on my jump shot so in rhythm I wan to knock down that J and hoping I can be aggressive, getting those rebounds and it is on me because I have the ability to contribute more often."

Although eight players are back from the team which posted the best record in the Eastern Conference, there have been rumblings that the Sun will struggle to make the playoffs and that the absence of a player like Jones is simply too much to overcome. Few people outside the Sun's inner circle view Griffin as the type of player who can step up enough to ease the burden from Jones' departure.

"I am used to flying under the radar," Griffin said. "My whole college career I flew under the radar, that is more of where I have been not in the spotlight with all those accolades and expectations. I feel like if we stick to the kind of basketball we are capable there, we will be right in there."



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