Griner shoots for U.S. Olympic roster

Houston junior Brittney Griner works on drills at practice for the USA Basketball Women’s National Team. Griner is the only collegiate player on the team, which is currently participating in a tournament in Europe. USA Basketball Photo
Houston junior Brittney Griner works on drills at practice for the USA Basketball Women’s National Team. Griner was the only collegiate player on the team at the time.
USA Basketball Photo

By Krista Pirtle
Sports Writer

The last time a collegiate athlete was on the roster for the women’s national team, Baylor junior Brittney Griner wasn’t born.

“Brittney Griner is young, but in some ways her game is somewhat older than she is,” U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. “She brings an element to a team that’s impossible to find. You don’t find players who are game changers like that. I don’t think anyone else in the world has anyone like Brittney Griner.”

Vicky Bullett (Maryland) and Bridgette Gordon (Tennessee) were on the 1988 USA women’s basketball team, the last time college students were on the roster.

Griner is among 21 finalists announced Monday for the squad that will compete at the Olympic Games this summer in London.

This past summer Griner played on the 2011 European Tour with USA Basketball, averaging 12.8 points and 7.3 rebounds.

“This past fall when we competed in Europe, I was so proud to wear that USA jersey. I am really excited and honored to be included on the list. It moves me a little bit closer to checking an item off my bucket list,” Griner said.

This season Griner is shooting 61 percent from the floor, averaging 23 points a contest. The No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears are undefeated (26-0) and are two wins away from clinching the regular season Big 12 championship.

She has also embraced her inner Brady Heslip, shooting a perfect percentage from 3-point range, 1 for 1.

After every game she plays, she said she also focuses on her free throw percentage. She has raised it from .777 last season to .806.

Shots from the charity stripe were a main focus during this season’s Connecticut game in December. In the 2010 meeting between the Lady Bears and the Huskies, Griner was 5-13 from the line.

In December, Griner was much better, and the Lady Bears held on for a 66-61 win in Waco.

“That’s the first thing I looked at,” Griner said, holding the stat sheet that showed she made all seven free throws — six in that game-ending 27-11 spurt. “I just knew I had to knock them down, stayed calmed and did everything I needed to do.”

Auriemma also happens to be the head coach at UConn.

“Getting down to 12 will be an arduous task to say the least,” Auriemma said. “I’m not looking forward to be in that room. There will be people left out, and it will break your heart not to have them on your team.”

While the final twelve will be announced in the spring, Griner remains focused on the unfinished business of her team: winning the national championship.