AFTER Kelsey Griffin’s first training session with the Bendigo Spirit, word quickly spread in basketball circles that the Spirit had found a gem.
Talk of imports from the United States being superstars can sometimes be misleading.
Training form doesn’t always transfer to game time and then there’s the off-court dynamic.
This time around the inside word about Griffin didn’t do her justice.
Griffin, who plays for the Connecticut Suns in the WNBA, made an instant impact on and off the court.
You could mount a strong argument to say the Spirit wouldn’t have won the WNBL championship without her.
Griffin dominated in the paint in the second semi-final win over Dandenong before causing the Townsville defence all sorts of trouble yesterday.
Her 20 points and 11 boards made her the obvious choice for grand final MVP.
Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said Griffin’s arrival a month into the season played a huge role in the Spirit’s success.
“She come in like she’d been with us for 10 years,’’ Harrower said of Griffin.
“She was immediately part of our culture, what we’re all about.
“She’s a team player, the ultimate professional and I couldn’t be more proud of her today for winning the grand final MVP.
“She’s been the catalyst for a lot of our wins this year.”
Griffin was a college basketball star with Nebraska before being drafted by Connecticut.
She’s had her moments in the WNBA, but has struggled at times to come to terms with life as a professional basketballer.
The athletic forward said her move to Bendigo had turned around her attitude towards basketball.
“This season is like I can breathe again,’’ Griffin said.
“I’ve fallen back in love with basketball. Being a professional has been really hard for me because so much I’m just a statistic. I understand that’s part of professional basketball, but to come here and play for this club, this town and with these girls – you can’t ask for anything more than this.
I didn’t think I could have an experience like this after graduating from college. As much as they might be thanking me for what I did, they’ve given me a new lease on my career.”
Griffin said the fact she had not expected to average 25 points per game played a major role in her, and the Spirit’s, success.
“I’m really blessed to play for a team that it’s not all on me,’’ she said.
“I know when I walk out on the court that I can just go out and play and on any given night it could be anyone’s night.
“Kristi sat me down the second week of training and told me to quit putting pressure on myself.
“Kristi said to me ‘some night it’s going to be Gabe’s night, some night it’s going to be Chelsea’s night, some night it’s going to be your night and that’s how we’re going to win games.
“Ever since Kristi sat me down and talk to me like that, it’s been so easy going into games.
“This was the most I’ve ever wanted a game since my senior year at college.”