NEW ORLEANS — Brittney Griner is ready to take Mark Cuban up on his offer to draft her.
The Baylor star was named the Associated Press Player of the Year Saturday and says she’s open to an NBA tryout after the WNBA season ends.
“When are tryouts?” Griner asked at the Final Four. “The WNBA is where I’m at. That’s where I’m going. After that, if I get a shot, why turn down something like that? That’s big, even if you don’t make it. Hey, at least you tried. Somebody pushed the envelope.”
The two-time AP player of the year said she first heard of Cuban’s comments from friends. She jumped on Twitter to start reading up on what the Mavericks owner said.
“I was like, ‘Wow, Mark Cuban. He tweeted me?’” Griner said. “It definitely made me feel good, feel special. I tweeted him back, ‘When is tryouts?’ I can hold my own. I’ll try, too. I’m not going to back down from a challenge.”
Besides drafting her, Cuban mentioned Griner playing in the NBA summer league. Griner shot that idea down, saying she was totally focused on playing in the WNBA. She’s expected to be the first overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA draft April 15.
The NBA wouldn’t have a problem with Cuban’s offer as other women have tried before. Nancy Lieberman got a summer league shot from both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz in the early 1980s and went on to play two seasons with men in the United States Basketball League.
Ann Meyers signed with the Pacers in 1979, but didn’t make it past tryouts.
Griner is well aware of the challenges of competing against NBA players.
“They are strong, definitely bigger than me,” she said. “I would have to as you say, man-up. But I’ve never backed down from a challenge and I never will. If I get an elbow to the chest from one of those big guys, hey, at least I can say I was there and tried it.”
While Griner was open to the idea, college coaches were against it, viewing Cuban’s offer more as a publicity stunt.
“His genius would take a huge hit if he drafted Brittney Griner,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. “I think it would be a sham. The fact that a woman could actually play right now in the NBA and compete successfully against the level of play that they have is absolutely ludicrous.”
Griner is looking forward to the WNBA and not getting triple-teamed anymore. She also says she’s open to playing overseas and at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She was expected to be the 12th player on the London Olympic team which won a gold medal, but declined the offer citing a family illness and her summer school schedule.
“That’s in my line of sight if I get picked to try out again,” Griner said. “It was hard watching (London) but me and my family just felt it would be better if I stayed here. I feel good about my decision.”
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