By Megan Stewart
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As Brittney Griner, the 6-foot-7 first pick of the 2013 WNBA draft, entered the restaurant Culinary Dropout, it was easy to see something special in the lanky woman’s stride: confidence.
This self-assurance was even more evident when she unabashedly shouted, “LeBron is on the road for more!” when the Miami Heat won the NBA championship over the San Antonio Spurs, as students, newcomers and seasoned media professionals broke bread during the ASWM convention’s Friday dinner.
Griner, who played in the NCAA basketball finals, graduated college and played in the WNBA in the previous three months, sat on stage for a live interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe. The conversational rapport between the pair was easily seen.
When asked if that was the work of a career of asking questions or if Griner was someone special, Rowe said it was a bit of both.
“You don’t instantly have it with everyone,” Rowe said. “But that’s five years in the making of interviewing Brittney since she was very young and her developing trust in you. But I do try to have a good rapport with people. I feel like its crucial to the job.”
Griner has come a long way. Rowe recalled her first interview with the star, when Griner was a freshman at Baylor University.
“She was so shy,” Rowe said. “She was trembling. I was like, ‘It’s OK, Brittney.'”
The confidence shown by Griner set the tone for many women at the AWSM gathering. She served as a reminder that no matter how you start (Griner didn’t begin to play basketball until she was in the ninth grade), the potential for success is present.
Griner can also attest to the hard work that goes into making a name for oneself. She admitted to crying when the day arrived to join the Phoenix Mercury.
However, her mood quickly turned around when Mercury and Phoenix Suns vice president Ann Meyers Drysdale, a former Olympian and WNBA player, scheduled a workout with Griner and retired NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“That was amazing,” Griner said. “That was a dream come true. He showed me I was holding the ball the wrong way.”
Griner also has people critiquing her lifestyle away from the court. So she turned her public coming out into a campaign by Nike called “#BeTrue.”
“I want to change the bullying,” Griner said. “For athletes looking to go to college, do your research. Being at college is about being able to be yourself. Some coaches may be more accepting than some. Definitely feel it out first.”
As she develops herself on and off the court, Griner will surely gain coverage in the media. And, though not everyone can put her at ease like Rowe does, Griner said the best thing media professionals can do when interviewing an athlete is simple: Listen.
“Really listen,” Griner said. “You can tell by a person’s response if it’s a touchy subject. Stay out of left field.”