Bendigo Spirit signs WNBA player

The Bendigo Bank Spirit’s new US import, Kelsey Griffin, could hit the court by next weekend against Dandenong.

The 188cm forward is expected in Bendigo next week after her WNBA season with the Connecticut Sun ended in the Eastern Conference final last Thursday.

The athletic 25-year-old is seen as a like-for-like replacement for former import Kathleen Scheer, who was sent home last month because of a knee injury.

“I think Kelsey’s strengths as a scorer, rebounder and great team player, will fit perfectly into our system,” Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said.

“This team was built around having another athletic, scoring forward to play a versatile role at both ends of the floor.”

Griffin was taken with pick number three in the 2010 WNBA draft and has played 100 games with Connecticut, including the club’s recent loss to Indiana in the eastern conference finals.

She averaged 12 minutes per game and 3.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 31 regular season appearances this season.

Griffin has also played in Hungary and Israel following an outstanding college career with the University of Nebraska, where she was a team-mate of the Spirit’s Canadian international Chelsea Aubry.

“Chelsea said she’s a really good person and a gun player, she was full of praise for her and it was through her recommendation that we went after her,” Harrower said.

“Having WNBA experience and overseas experience playing with Pecs in Hungary is a good recommendation – they’ve always been a strong European club – so her coming into our program is only going to enhance what we already have here.”

Griffin averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds in her senior college year in 2010 and was named the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year as well as being selected in the conference All-Star and All-Defensive teams.

Griffin’s arrival will be a boost for the Spirit, which is undefeated on top of the WNBL ladder after four away games.

The Spirit plays its first match at Bendigo Stadium this season on Saturday night against West Coast in round three.

Bendigo could be without Madeleine Garrick, who is struggling with a bruised heel suffered against Dandenong last weekend.

“It could be until the eve of the game as to whether she suits up or doesn’t suit up,” Harrower said.

“She certainly won’t be training at all this week and we’ll just have to see how she goes on Saturday as to whether she plays or not.”

The Spirit now seems unlikely to risk star recruit Renae Camino, who is recovering from a calf tear, before the bye in round five.

“I doubt now whether we’ll get her back prior to the bye. Because we’ve done OK in these four away games the urgency’s not as a great as it would be as if we were 0-4,” Harrower said.

“We want to make sure she’s 100 per cent, she’s just another player who’s going to enhance where we’re at.”

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