Brittney Griner sits alone on the scorer’s table inside an empty, silent US Airways Center.
It’s her typical spot, one she frequents during Mercury practice when there are dozens of people in the gym.
The lights in the arena are half-lit; a basketball rests on the hardwood a few feet away.
BG, as she affectionately goes by, is staring attentively at the basket to her left – the same one she dunked on in her very first game as a professional in 2013. There’s no intensity or visible emotion on her face but, rather, sincere appreciation.
Focused isn’t the right way to articulate her demeanor. Neither is dialed-in.
For BG, the mindset is no longer, “I’m going to be.”
It’s, “I already am.”
A gym rat doesn’t begin to describe Brittney Griner over the past two months.
“She works about six days per week,” General Manager Jim Pitman said. “She’ll start by coming in to lift weights, stretch and do her corrective exercises with Kristine Foltz, our strength and conditioning coach. Then she gets on the court to do her individual work. Most of that is footwork and offensive skill development, but also working with our male practice squad on defensive areas of her game – how to help and recover better.”
Pitman said he, along with basically everyone within the organization, has observed an enhanced version of Griner, especially over the past month. Griner has spent the majority of her time focusing on individual abilities, but that’s in addition to team practices.
“I think she is more focused, but that comes more from her maturity,” said Pitman. “If the team is practicing that day, she’s been going with them following her individual workout.”
Practice will subsequently go on for another couple of hours depending on what Sandy Brondello has planned that day. Pitman said Griner runs plays with both the first and second unit, and then goes against the male practice squad again.
In short, Griner wants to be as prepared as she possibly can when she takes the floor.
“She wants to hit the ground running,” Pitman added. “I’ve seen some really good things out of her. Workouts alone take up 3-4 hours or more of time for her every day. She’s very committed to improving herself as she moves forward.
“Brittney wants to be the best in the league and I think she has a very good chance at being that.”
“When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” – Pablo Picasso
There is no one on the planet like Brittney Griner. Nobody. She is 100 percent her own individual, distinctive and real in every way.
That’s what makes her beautiful.
The city of Phoenix has embraced Griner from the moment she was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft. She dunked and blocked her way into the hearts of the X-Factor with 129 total swats in 2014, surpassing the previous single-season mark of 114 set by Margo Dydek in 1998 (Griner blocked more shots individually that season than eight other WNBA teams combined).
Her remarkable play on both ends of the floor was a major catalyst in bringing a third WNBA trophy to the Valley of the Sun in just her second season in the league. But more than the blocks and jaw-dropping dunks, it’s her fun-loving, inclusive personality that ultimately won fans over.
Griner has “debuted” several times in her career: her first game as rookie, the WNBA All-Star Game, her first playoff series in 2013, playing in the WNBA Finals in 2014, etc. But her 2015 debut is, perhaps, the most substantial.
That is to say, through honesty and humility the 24-year-old Griner is now at a significant point in her life where she feels at peace.
And for lack of a better term, whole.