WHEN Bendigo Bank Spirit coach Simon Pritchard started the season, he wasn’t sure what star forward Kelsey Griffin would offer him.
The two-time WNBL Grand Final MVP injured her hip in the first game of the WNBA season, forcing her to sit out the entire year.
“I knew she would be itching to get back on the court, but I expected to hopefully ease her into the season,” Pritchard said.
“It wouldn’t have surprised me if an interrupted pre-season resulted in her taking her time to achieve match fitness.
“I planned for her to have very little influence on the first half of the season, and I hoped she would eventually get back to her best.”
However, Griffin’s immediate, and prolonged, impact has taken everyone by surprise.
“She has shown just how big a champion she is,” Pritchard said.
“From our first game she has been itching to get out there and she has performed well above expectation all year.
“Other teams see her as their biggest threat and have thrown everything at her defensively, trying whatever they can to try and nullify her.”
Griffin is in career-best form and is one of five season-MVP favorites.
She is averaging 16.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and two assists per game while shooting 80 per cent from the foul line. All those stats are better than any of her other WNBL seasons.
Griffin’s season stats are also impressive at league level.
She is second in league for offensive rebounds with 59. The only player with more rebounds than her this year is teammate Gabe Richards, who leads the league with 62.
Griffin is second in the league for defensive rebounds, second for overall rebounds and third for rebounds per game.
She currently sits fourth on the points tally, is fifth in average points per game, third in the league for steals and equal fourth for blocks.
“There aren’t too many players who are having as good an all-round season as Kelsey is,” Pritchard said.
“We are confident sitting out last WNBA season has given her body a great rest, and she will only get better in the last part of the season.
“Spirit fans can be assured the longer this season goes, the better Kesley is going to get, which is saying something given the season she has had to date.”