BENDIGO Spirit coach Bernie Harrower is expecting big things from star US import Kelsey Griffin – just not tonight against the Sydney Uni Flames.
Griffin will suit up for her first WNBL game with the Spirit against the Flames in Sydney tonight.
While the 25-year-old forward, who has played the past three seasons in America’s WNBA with Connecticut, will start for the Spirit, Harrower isn’t expecting an MVP performance from Griffin on debut.
“She will be in for her first game for us and will come in and start,” Harrower said yesterday.
“We’re expecting big things from her, but not so much in her first game. It’s always difficult to come in for your first game and dominate.
“She has been training with us for four weeks now and hasn’t been able to play a game yet. So at least from that point of view she’s had time to get an understanding of the way we play, but it’s always difficult once you get out on the floor and are playing against an opposition.”
Griffin’s debut for the Spirit has been delayed while waiting for visa approval, but she was given the all clear on Monday.
“There’s no doubt she’s a very good player and will be one of the better imports in the league,” Harrower said.
“We’re hoping that she really grows as a player with us. Sometimes it can be difficult coming off the bench in a WNBA team like she has and you don’t get to play as much as you like, so the rhythm isn’t always there.
“So we’re hoping that by the end of our season she is a superstar of our league.”
Tonight’s game is a clash between the WNBL’s top and bottom teams, although, you wouldn’t know it looking at last week’s results.
The Spirit (6-1) is coming off a five-point loss to Canberra, while the Flames (1-6) won their first game of the season with a 16-point victory over third-placed Adelaide.
Having averaged 74 points per game in their first six matches, the Spirit were held to just 54 against Canberra last week, while the Flames scorched Adelaide for 94.
“Sydney had a good win over Adelaide last week, so they have obviously turned the corner,” Harrower said.
“We hit the wall a little last week, but at the end of the day, a loss never hurts anybody and it gave us a chance to see where our deficiencies are.
“We were shown up by Canberra, which never allowed us to get into the game and play at the level I expect us to play at.
“We’ll be looking to come out tomorrow night and play with a lot more intensity than we showed last week.”
After being ill during the week, the Spirit are hopeful Kelly Wilson will line up tonight.
Sydney Uni has had the wood over the Spirit recently, winning its past two games against the Spirit, both by two points.
Tonight’s game tips off a weekend double-header for the Spirit, who also play Canberra at Lauren Jackson Stadium in Albury on Sunday.
“It’s a big couple of games for us this weekend, especially after we missed the chance last week to consolidate top spot by a couple of games,” Harrower said.
“My biggest fear now is we go on the road this weekend, drop two games and fall to 6-3 and would be right back in the pack with a tough run to come leading into Christmas.”
Tonight’s game at SUSAC in Sydney starts at 7pm.