WNBA working to bring Brittney Griner home from ‘unimaginable situation’ | WNBA

Moments before Rhyne Howard went to Atlanta with the No 1 pick in the WNBA draft, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league is working hard to help bring Brittney Griner back to the United States.

Griner, one of the league’s biggest stars, has been detained in Russia since arriving at a Moscow airport in mid-February. Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained cannabis oil, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

“I want to take a moment to reiterate the WNBA’s support for Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner,” Engelbert said before the draft started. “Please know that getting her home safely continues to be our top priority and while we are facing an extraordinarily complex challenge, there is strength in community, especially the WNBA.”

Engelbert said there will be a league-wide charity initiative spearheaded by the Mercury to support Griner’s philanthropic project, called BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. The drive has gathered new or gently used shoes for homeless people in the Phoenix area.

“This is an unimaginable situation for BG to be in,” Engelbert said. “She continues to have our full support. Certainly, we’re trying everything we can, every angle, working with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration. Just everybody in our ecosystem to try and find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as we can.”

Howard, who was the first Kentucky player to go No 1 in the draft, will be close to home, having grown up about 90 minutes from Atlanta.

“For it to be so close is huge. A lot of family and close friends can come and support me,” Howard said. “To go first, I don’t have words for it right now. Still shaking. Super exciting and proud of myself and thankful for everyone that has been on this journey with me and helped me get here.”

Indiana, who had four picks in the first round, drafted NaLyssa Smith from Baylor with the No 2 pick and her Bears teammate Queen Egbo at 10. The Fever also snagged Louisville’s Emily Engstler at No 4 and Lexie Hull of Stanford at 6.

“We have four top picks, so there is the opportunity for this team to grow tremendously,” Smith said.

The Mystics chose Shakira Austin from Ole Miss third and New York drafted Oregon’s Nyara Sabally in between Indiana’s top two selections.

The WNBA season tips off on 6 May, with training camps opening later this week.

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