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April 16, 2013

Giant expectations

BRISTOL, Conn. — Brittney Griner left an indelible mark on women’s college basketball. Now she’s ready to take on the pros.

The Phoenix Mercury took Baylor’s star center with the top pick in the WNBA draft Monday night. Despite knowing she was going first, the two-time AP Player of the Year admitted she was extremely nervous.

“It’s a dream come true, I’m like a little kid in Disney World the first time meeting all the characters,” Griner said. “Sitting at the table they said 15 seconds and my heart started beating so fast. I was grabbing the tablecloth underneath.”

The 6-foot-8 phenom finished as the second all-time scorer in women’s NCAA history, with 3,283 points. She is the top shot-blocker ever, shattering both the men’s and women’s college marks with 748. She also had a record 18 dunks — including 11 this season.

WNBA president Laurel Richie opened the draft offering the league’s thoughts and prayers to those affected by the bombings in Boston. She said earlier in the evening that the WNBA had discussions whether to hold the draft, deciding to go ahead with it.

And then soon after the draft started she announced Griner as the first choice.

Griner joins a very talented Mercury squad that was plagued by injuries most of last season. Star Diana Taurasi played in only eight games and Penny Taylor missed the entire year while recovering from an ACL injury. Candice Dupree also missed 21 games because of a knee injury.

“I’m ready to get there and ready to learn from (Taurasi),” Griner said. “I got to play with her a little bit at USA Basketball. I’m ready to feed off her and give all I can to the Phoenix Mercury.

Phoenix had the second-worst record and a 28 percent chance of getting the first pick. Washington, which had the worst record in the league picked fourth.

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