There was concern that the whole squad wouldn’t arrive in time for the first game, but the Americans sailed quite smoothly in the end.
Along with four rebounds and three assists, the game finished with a game-high 22 points, with captain Breanna Steward leading the charge.
Team USA at the basketball World Cup without Brittney Griner:
- Team USA is the red-hot favourite to win the tournament, aiming for their fourth consecutive FIBA World Cup win. And it’s the first time since 1994 that the tournament is being held on Australian soil.
- But the US team is competing in this tournament without Brittney Griner, the 31-year-old athlete who was charged with drug smuggling and is currently detained in a Russian prison. In August, a Russian court sentenced her to a nine-year jail term for possessing vape cartridges with cannabis oil.
Call for Brittney Griner’s release after the first game:
- After the game, captain Stewart took to social media to call on US President Joe Biden to help bring Brittney Gringer home.
- USA Basketball said that they’ve temporarily retired the No. 15 jersey worn by Griner for the tournament, so none of its players will wear it at the World Cup.
What Brittney Griner’s absence means:
- The governing body said through a tweet that as they take the court in Sydney, USA Basketball “continues to keep” Brittney Griner in their thoughts. And that in this competition, “no U.S. player will wear BG’s”.
- Coach Cheryl Reeve said that it’s “really, really heavy” on teammates’ minds, especially as they’re participating in this competition. She added that it’s challenging as Griner was a “big part of many of our lives.”
One of the biggest starts:
Griner won a WNBA title in 2014 with the Phonix Mercury. She also claimed two World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals. And so the 206-cm centre is considered one of the biggest stars in the basketball world.
On the night of the 22nd, Australia will play its first game against team France. The Opals aim for this World Cup as it could be their first since 2006.
- What was Griner doing in Russia?
In order to rejoin her Russian pro team, she travelled to the country.
- How much was Brittney Griner paid to play in Russia?
She reportedly had a paycheque of $1 million, which is more than four times what she made back home.
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