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Brittney Griner is still adjusting after her ordeal in Russian prison. WNBA Star Details Experience in book


AP Photo/Matt York, file
WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner speaks at a news conference, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Phoenix.

Brittney Griner continues her efforts to settle into a normal routine after her release from a Russian prison 17 months ago.

Life isn’t what it once was for the perennial WNBA All-Star.

The 6-foot center looks different and has different priorities. Gone are her familiar dreadlocks that could not be maintained during her incarceration. She regularly visits a therapist to help her cope after serving 10 months in prison. And since her release, Griner has been advocating for the return of other Americans imprisoned abroad.

Since her release, she has met twice with President Joe Biden, including once last month in Phoenix.

“I have to talk to him about a few people and keep it in everyone’s thoughts,” the Phoenix Mercury star said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “You want to get exposure and that keeps it at the forefront of people’s minds. Hold people accountable.”

Griner was detained at a Moscow airport in February 2022. Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis.

She shares details about the harrowing experience in her new book – ‘Coming Home’ – out Tuesday.

Griner hopes that anyone who reads the book will get a vivid picture of what inmates have to endure. She said that’s why it took the entire season to write it with Michelle Burford.

‘I have not left out anything, from the detention, the stay there, the circumstances. As much as we could fit into a book, we basically did,” Griner said. “People will be shocked by some things.

“I hope it gives a little more insight into the conditions in which detainees live.”

Griner says it’s important for people to have a clear picture of what it’s like for Americans not yet home, including Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, so no one gives up the fight.

“Everyone had to come together to take me home,” she said. Government officials “have to make very difficult decisions.”

Griner, who first met President Biden at the 2023 White House Correspondent’s Dinner a few months after her return to the U.S., said she and her WNBA teammates need to keep the momentum going to get everyone home.

“How are we going to do it? Bring families in, play videos, give them airtime?” she said. “Maybe someone who doesn’t know will see (the book) and write a letter to Congress that will tip the scales to get someone home.”

Griner said her days of playing basketball overseas during the WNBA season are over.

While many WNBA players still play in international leagues to supplement their league salaries, Griner said she is done, except with USA Basketball. She hopes to make the Olympic team at the Paris Games this summer, and the odds are in her favor that that will happen.

Griner had played in China for a few years during the WNBA offseason before making the move to Russia, where she had played since 2015 before her arrest.

However, it’s not just her ordeal in Russia that will keep her at home. Grinner’s wife, Cherelle, is expecting the couple’s first child.

“The only time I go abroad is with Team USA,” Griner said. ‘I have to be in the United States. About to become a parent. The last thing I want is to be in and out of my child’s life. I want to be there for everything. I don’t want to uproot my family and take them abroad. It is too much.”

Griner, who has been a mental health advocate for the past decade, said she regularly sees a therapist — something she did for several years before moving to Russia — and that it helps her process what she experienced in endured prison.

“They are very important to my mental health,” Griner said of her sessions. “Everyone can benefit from talking to someone. Someone outside of their daily lives. It just helps to have a different perspective on life than someone else.

“That way, if you’re feeling nervous or struggling with something, it’s really helpful.”

The 33-year-old took a mental health break for several days during the WNBA season last summer and missed three games. She will begin her twelfth year in the competition on May 14.

Griner is looking forward to it after the welcome she received upon her return last year. One of the few positive things Griner will take away from her ordeal was the outpouring of support she received from people in the form of letters they wrote to her in prison.

“The letters were amazing from the fans, teammates, opponents, general managers, they all meant so much to me,” she said. “It was very dark at times, especially during the trial. It was an emotional rollercoaster when I was in isolation for weeks and those letters reminded me that I was not forgotten.”

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