Brittney Griner is 'making enormous progress,' but it surely's unfair to anticipate her to succeed in famous person standing instantly, her coach says

  • Brittney Griner is making her extremely anticipated return to WNBA play in Los Angeles Friday evening.
  • The WNBA famous person hasn’t performed since 2021 after having spent 10 months detained in Russia.
  • She’s made “enormous progress,” however followers ought to mood their expectations, her coach instructed Insider.

For the primary time in 579 days — and after 10 months detained in Russia — Brittney Griner is returning to the hardwood.

The 6-foot-9 famous person is ready to play in her first official WNBA sport since 2021 on Friday evening as her Phoenix Mercury tackle the Los Angeles Sparks at Area. Phoenix head coach Vanessa Nygaard mentioned in a current press convention it is “only a miracle she is again” enjoying the game she loves.

Mercury Head Athletic Coach and Bodily Therapist Hannah Wengertsman is aware of simply how a lot arduous work has gone into Griner’s comeback over the past 5 months. And whereas the perennial All-Star is “making enormous progress,” Wengertsman instructed Insider, she mentioned that “it is also essential to handle expectations.”

“There’s clearly going to be numerous media round her first sport,” she mentioned. “And I’ll say that the BG that you will see quickly is just not the identical BG you noticed when she final performed within the Finals in 2021.”

With 20.5 factors, 9.5 rebounds, and a couple of.7 assists per sport in 2021, Griner ended that season as an MVP contender. She made the All-WNBA first-team for the third time in her already-illustrious profession and notched her eighth season because the league’s chief in blocks.

Brittney Griner.

Griner (left) maneuvers round Candace Parker throughout the 2021 WNBA Finals.

AP Picture/Ralph Freso

That degree of talent would not simply disappear. However spending the vast majority of 2022 confined to a jail cell hundreds of miles from residence represented an unprecedented setback for Griner and the employees tasked with bringing her on top of things.

“This was so distinctive as a result of I had by no means actually had an athlete come from doing 10-plus months of nothing,” Wengertsman mentioned. “In order that was like actually ranging from the bottom up.”

They took it sluggish and stayed the course, with Wengertsman providing Griner pep talks by the moments of doubt. They usually celebrated the small victories alongside the way in which, from Griner’s first time working the size of the court docket to her first preseason sport.

Brittney Griner handles the ball during a 2023 preseason game.

Griner handles the ball throughout a 2023 preseason sport.

AP Picture/Matt York

Griner’s official first video games again — Friday in Los Angeles and Sunday again residence in Phoenix — would be the largest milestones thus far. The coach who helped her get there could not be extra excited.

“First I care about BG as an individual, and so the truth that she’s residence secure reunited together with her family and friends is the number-one precedence,” Wengertsman mentioned. “After which seeing her again on the basketball court docket is simply that a lot better.”

“I am so proud and excited to see the entire arduous work she’s put in over the previous few months come to fruition.”