The Courant will present a feature story on Baylor All-American 6-8 center Brittney Griner Sunday in anticipation of Monday’s game at the XL Center.
We talked to a number of former college centers about what it must be like to her at this point of her life and career, like Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan, 6-8, who has coached WNBA and Olympic championship teams.
Donovan will take over the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun after the college season.
Do you ever put yourself in Brittney Griner’s place, remember what it was like when you were her age?
“When I look at Brittney, I often think of what my life was like when I was her age. What I think is how comfortable she looks in her skin. That was not me when I was her age, certainly not when I was 18 or 19. I finally embraced my height when I was 20, but off the court I was a very shy and introverted kid. Brittney is not like that. She appears to be so very outgoing. You can see the shyness is some respects, but in general she appears very comfortable with who she is. I admire that about her.”
How long did it take you to grow accustomed to your height?
“Very rarely does the stare of people get to me, but I am 50 now. But it took every bit of those years to walk through an airport and be able to not even think about what others were saying or thinking about me. Look, people know who she is when she walks through an airport. That really was the case with me. She has an entirely different element working for her. When I was playing in college, the sport was far more obscure [in the American consciousness]. She has a whole different angle.”
Do you think playing for USA Basketball in the Olympics would have helped her next year in the WNBA?
“I do think having played in USA Basketball would have helped take her to another level. I’ve always said and believed that playing internationally was important for that reason. Imagine what she’d look like by now if she had the benefit of an Olympic experience behind her, especially in terms of her mobility to deal with match-ups. I hope she eventually decides that’s her goal, because the one time she did it she was pretty dominating.”
If you had the chance to speak to her, what would to tell her about what’s coming down the line as a pro?
“I would say to her to try and keep it positive at all times. I would ask her to embrace the experience, go get a gold medal [at some point in the Olympics]. And remember that professional basketball is different from college and that people can be very critical, perhaps even brutal at times in what they say. The innocence will be over in terms of what will be said [to her]. She needs to keep her cool and stay positive.”