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This Week in Women’s Basketball: Nation praying that Brittney Griner will be brought home in U.S./Russia agreement

Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in Russian prison. But the hope is that she will come home much sooner than that.

Phoenix Mercury v Connecticut Sun
The Phoenix Mercury and Connecticut Sun before their first game since hearing that Brittney Griner had been sentenced to nine years in Russian prison.
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Here’s what happened in the world of women’s basketball this past week:

Brittney Griner receives a sentence of nine years in prison

On Thursday, Griner was convicted of drug smuggling and possession and sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia. While her lawyers have confirmed plans to appeal the sentence, many in the basketball community and around the world were distraught.

President Joe Biden has stated that he’s asked Russia to release Griner, explaining, “I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.”

Griner has been detained in Russia since being arrested in February of 2022. Her lawyers were especially shocked by the sentence and pointed out that it’s nearly double the amount of time that Russians typically receive for the same crime.

Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas commented that the sentence “ ... was severe by Russian legal standards and goes to prove what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn.”

Griner could come home much sooner if the U.S. is able to arrange a prisoner swap with Russia.

Phoenix Mercury and Connecticut Sun stand in solidarity for Brittney Griner

Following Brittney Griner’s trial and sentencing, the Mercury and Sun began their game on Thursday by observing a 42-second moment of silence in honor of the star center.

Paige Bueckers to miss 2022-23 season with torn ACL

On Wednesday, UConn announced that junior guard Paige Bueckers will have to miss the 2022-23 season due to a torn ACL.

Coach Geno Auriemma explained that the team will certainly feel the loss. He said, “We’re all devastated for Paige. She’s worked really hard to get stronger and healthier this offseason, and this is an unfortunate setback. Paige is obviously an amazing basketball player but she’s a better person and teammate and it’s really unfortunate that this has happened to her.”

Sabrina Ionescu becomes the fourth WNBA player to earn 16 assists

The New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu had a big night last Sunday. She became the fourth WNBA player to earn 16 assists in one game when the New York Liberty took on the Phoenix Mercury. Ionescu also set a record for the Liberty with the feat, and her teammate Natasha Howard told reporters after the game, “I’m proud that she got 16 assists off the players she got the ball off to.”

Courtney Vandersloot moves into third in all-time assists

The Chicago Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot enjoyed her own phenomenal game when the Sky played against the Connecticut Sun. Vandersloot tied a season high with 12 assists and also moved back Lindsay Whelan on the all-time assists list to earn the third highest assists of all time.

Chicago Sky on cusp of franchise regular-season history

Scott Carter resigns as Athletic Director for the East Tennessee State Bucs

Two former East Tennessee State Bucs lodged a complaint of unfair treatment in the spring of 2022 and on Monday athletic director Scott Carter elected to resign from the team as a result of those complaints. The school also plans to fire women’s basketball coach Simon Harris over the complaints.

ETSU President Brian Noland explained, “The report details multiple ethical and policy violations and raises questions regarding potential failures to comply with NCAA rules.”

New York Liberty announce partnership with Xbox

On Tuesday, the Liberty shared that they were teaming up with Xbox to bring the first-ever gaming-inspired basketball court to the WNBA ahead of their games against the Los Angeles Sparks.

Marcos Waltenberg, the director of global partnerships at Xbox, praised the collaboration, saying, “When you combine the imagination of Xbox, the creativity of Roblox, and an amazing team like the Liberty, great ideas do come to life. We hope fans from around the world can enjoy a truly unique moment.”

Kianna Smith committed to Los Angeles Sparks for 2022 season

Guard Kianna Smith is signed to play with the Los Angeles Sparks for the rest of the WNBA season. Smith was drafted by the Sparks at the No. 16 position in 2022.

Odyssey Sims signs with Connecticut Sun

The Sun gained league veteran Odyssey Sims on Wednesday, when the team signed Sims to a seven-day contract. Sims was initially drafted into the WNBA back in 2014 and has played in numerous cities, including Tulsa, Los Angeles and Atlanta. She initially began the 2022 season in Minnesota before leaving the team after two games.

NCAA calls on its transformation committee to reevaluate its transfer proposal

On Wednesday, the NCAA declined to adopt transfer reforms, instead calling on the committee currently revamping the process to address lingering concerns. The proposal includes the potential for college athletes to be immediately eligible after more than one transfer. Under current rules, athletes can only transfer schools one time and be immediately eligible.