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She's no all-star yet, but Alaska's Kelsey Griffin is seizing new WNBA success

Van WilliamsAlaska Sports Hall of Fame

The WNBA All-Star Game came to Connecticut this year and even though Connecticut Sun starter Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River wasn’t on the roster, she could have stuck around town and watched the game from court side.

She took off instead.

“I went to New York and enjoyed the city,” she told me. “I wasn’t a basketball player for a few days. It was nice.”

It was a well-deserved break for the fourth-year forward, who is enjoying her best season in the WNBA, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds while averaging 23.3 minutes through 18 games.

Just Saturday night, the 6-foot-2 Alaskan bagged 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting in an 88-66 win over New York. It was the ninth time she had scored nine or more points, highlighted by a career-high 17 last month against Indiana.

“I have a much better feel for the league,” Griffin said. “I continue to work on my game, but compared to my rookie year, I’m definitely a better player. I’ve really taken it upon myself … This is my career, it’s my job. And I want to be better so I’ve spent a lot more time off the court getting better and improving.”

Griffin, of Chugiak High fame, is the only active Alaskan in the WNBA after nine-year veteran Jessica Moore of Palmer retired last month. Griffin and Moore were teammates last season, and Griffin called Moore her mentor.

“I can’t say enough good things about Jessica Moore. She’s incredible. I loved having her as my teammate. I wish I would have had the opportunity to play with her more,” Griffin said.

Griffin is now carrying the torch for Alaska.

“The older I get, the more I appreciate what I’ve been able to do in my career and what I hope to do in my career and the fact that I can do that for the state and the young women and girls who look up to me – and the boys too – to give the people of Alaska the opportunity to know they can do it.”

Griffin, 26, has thrived under new Connecticut coach Anna Donovan, who plays Griffin primarily at power forward. Previously, she bounced back and forth between forward and big guard.

“Playing only the 4, it’s been really nice and much easier,” she said.

That’s the position Griffin played in Australia last winter when she had a renaissance of sorts. Down under, she rediscovered her confidence and love for the game after winning the WNBL championship and being named Finals MVP.

Griffin, a former NCAA All-American out of the University of Nebraska, has also played internationally in Israel and Hungary, yet something about Australia worked even better.

“For so much of the previous three years (as a pro) I was trying to tread water rather than going in there and attacking,” she said.

That success in the WNBL has carried over to the WNBA, where she is having a career year. Part of her rebirth was adjusting her mindset. As a former No. 3 overall pick, maybe the pressure was too much and it held her back. No more.

Now she knows she’s good enough to perform on the world’s greatest stage for women’s basketball.

“My approach is different,” Griffin said. “I deserve a spot on that floor. I deserve to take those shots. I had to prove that to myself, not anybody else.”