Taurasi, Nygaard applaud UMMC Ekaterinburg director, player testifying for Brittney Griner
Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi knows what it’s like to play basketball in Russia.
The 18-year WNBA veteran played for UMMC Ekaterinburg, Brittney Griner’s current offseason team, for 10 years. Griner has been playing with Ekaterinburg in the WNBA offseason since 2014, including two years with Taurasi.
Taurasi said she has a great relationship with Ekaterinburg club director Maxim Rybakov, who testified as a character witness for Griner in court on Thursday.
Rybakov said he told the court how Griner helped the success of the Russian club and her characteristics as an athlete.
“Max is a big thing, a big piece of Russian basketball,” Taurasi said. “He’s been in the gym at Ekat for as long as I can remember... I’m sure it meant a lot to her for them to be there, defending her character and everything she’s done for them. So, hopefully this is all trending to a place where we can get her home as quickly as possible.”
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Taurasi and Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard applauded Rybakov and Ekaterinburg player Evgenia Belyakova, who also testified as a character witness, for speaking up in court in support of Griner.
“I played 10 years in Russia, and you don’t speak against the government, you just don’t do that,” Taurasi said. “And not only that, they just have a completely different way of looking at life.”
Said Nygaard: “It’s wonderful to see them do that, that’s the extension of our basketball community and the care that they have. Those are their teammates, those are their players, just like how we feel. They feel that too and so I’m extremely grateful for those teammates and coaches to testify on her behalf.”
Griner has now been detained in Russia for 148 days. After appearing in court on Thursday, Griner’s next hearing is scheduled for July 26.