The Baylor Bears showed up for WNBA star Brittney Griner as the Phoenix Mercury visited College Park Center to take on the Dallas Wings on Wednesday. Although Griner never played for current Bears head coach Nicki Collen, the Baylor head coach still thinks it's important to support a former player from the program.
Since last year, Collen has been saying she wants to honor Griner -- who was part of the 2012 NCAA championship team. The Bears will be getting a new arena next year, and the coach wants Baylor to retire Griner's jersey. Foster Pavilion, which is replacing Ferrell Center, is expected to open its doors in January 2024.
Griner played for Baylor from 2009 until 2013 under Kim Mulkey, who is now the head coach at LSU. Collen did not take over in Waco until 2021.
"That's the goal," Collen recently repeated her plans to ESPN. "We're opening a new arena. There's no doubt that I want to see her jersey in the rafters."
On Wednesday, Griner was playing just an hour and a half away from her former school. This is her first season back in the WNBA after spending 294 days detained in Russia for carrying a marijuana concentrate in her luggage.
"I would love to see my jersey in the rafters," Griner told reporters. "I played some of my best basketball there, met some really amazing people there, met my wife there. I can't wait to get back. It's safe to say I'm never going overseas to play ball again, so in the offseason, I'll be able to actually go and see games. Just walk the same halls that I walked before."
Griner registered 24 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block as her team dropped to a 1-4 record with a loss to the Wings. The 6-foot-9 center has looked like her old self, leading the Mercury in the first five games of the 2023 campaign with 22.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest.