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Brittney Griner wouldn't shy away from NBA challenge

Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Brittney Griner told reporters at the women's Final Four she wouldn't back down from a challenge to make it in the NBA.

NEW ORLEANS -- Brittney Griner is more than ready to take up Mark Cuban on his offer to draft her. "When are tryouts?" Griner said to a handful of reporters at New Orleans Arena on Saturday afternoon. "The WNBA is where I'm at. That is 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."

Griner said she would be open to an NBA tryout after the WNBA season concluded. "If everybody was OK with it, I would not mind pushing the envelope," Griner said.

The Baylor All-America center -- she picked up another honor Saturday by being named to the WBCA All-America team -- said she first heard of Cuban's comments last Wednesday from friends. She then jumped on Twitter and started 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."

Of the challenges of competing against NBA players, Griner mentioned strength and size multiple times. "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."

A reporter asked about the prospect of battling Dwight Howard, the Lakers seven-foot center. Griner let out a sigh. "I would finally see what everybody feels like against me, a taste of my own medicine, I guess,'" Griner said, smiling. "But I'm not going to change my shot. If he blocks it, whatever."

Most women's college basketball coaches quickly dismissed Cuban's suggestion. "Ha, ha, funny, funny, that was my reaction," said Duke coach Joanne P. McAllie. "No way. I respect the strength and speed of those guys. There is simply no way on earth that will happen. It's a silly thing. Let's be who we are. Let's be really good at who we are. And your validation does come through Mark Cuban's offer. I appreciate Mark Cuban watching the game but let's not forget who we are."

"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."

Stanford All-American junior forward Chiney Ogwumike offered a counter proposal. "If she can do it, do it," Ogwumike said. "I think it's cool. She's a transcendent player. Even though the WNBA has their hands ready to pick her up, basketball is not a sport for any gender. It's just a sport. If someone is good enough, why not?"

Griner is charming in person -- slightly goofy, too -- and has become much more comfortable around the press since her days as a freshman and sophomore. "All the different things I've done like the car wash [all-day interviews] at ESPN has helped me," she said. "First, I used to dread media. I didn't want to go. Now it's like: "I got media? Okay, I'll go. What time. Let's do it."

Griner is a lock to be drafted first overall by the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA Draft on April 15, and she's looking forward to getting some space in the lane, especially with the league's three-second rule. She also said she's open to playing overseas -- she loves international travel -- and playing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio is a major priority. "That's in my line of sight if I get picked to tryout 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."

No team, Griner said, had ever played her as physically as Louisville did in Baylor's 82-81 loss in the regional semifinals in Oklahoma City. But Griner offered no excuses Saturday. "I give them credit," she said. "They had a game plan, and they stuck with it the whole entire game. They had two people around me the entire time from start to end. So give credit to them. This is definitely not where I wanted to be but at the same time it's fun to be here [in New Orleans]. I'm staying for the championship game, and I'll be watching somewhere."

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