PHOENIX — Everything comes with the following qualifier: it’s only day one.
Still, it was hard not to be impressed with 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, the No. 1 overall pick in last month’s WNBA Draft, as the Mercury opened training camp Monday.
“BG, as I call her now, a little more skilled than I thought,” general manager and head coach Corey Gaines said after the two-hour practice. “(She) catches the ball really well; maintained the pace and we ran a decent amount today. She maintained the pace. She looked good.”
Again, it’s day one. The season does not begin for another three weeks.
“First day was, of course, tiring, but nothing that I don’t think I can handle,” Griner said. “I can be in better shape, but that’s why we’re in training camp. By the end of training camp I’ll be where I need to be.”
She, as does everyone else, needs to be in what Gaines referred to as “my shape”, meaning they are able to run the floor at a pace not matched by many teams.
Before last year, the Mercury had led the league in scoring six straight seasons.
“Just like high school to college, college to the pros now, you’ve got to do it,” Griner said of the faster pace. “If you make it through the first day, you’ll make it through the second. You just keep going from there.”
Griner, a three-time All-American and two-time National Player of the Year at Baylor, was a quick study.
“Her basketball IQ is what I think I was afraid of — what she knew, how she was going to do it, but she fit right on in,” Gaines said. “She saw somebody do it. She picked it right up.”
“Today I picked up on everything,” Griner said, “but who knows, tomorrow I might be blown out the window.”
The Mercury opened camp with 11 players. Stars DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree, Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor will arrive Thursday and practice for the first time Friday.
Griner, meanwhile, is enjoying what got her here: Playing basketball.
“Definitely feels good to have a ball in my hand and (going) up and down the court,” she said. “Sitting in press rooms and doing all the media stuff—sorry guys, but on the court that’s where all the fun is.”