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Ohio State coach and players reflect on Brittney Griner release

Hours after the basketball star was released from Russian imprisonment, Buckeyes share their thoughts

2021 WNBA Finals Practice and Media Availability Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

WNBA and Team USA star center Brittney Griner never played against the Ohio State Buckeyes in her four seasons at Baylor University. However, the impact of Griner’s game on the court, and arrest and subsequent imprisonment in Russia on Feb. 17, 2022, sent shockwaves throughout basketball, especially in the women’s game.

At 8:14 a.m. ET, on Dec. 8, after 294 days, Griner release back to the United States became public.

Less than three hours later, the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team took the court against the University of New Hampshire. The Scarlet & Gray took care of business, defeating the Wildcats 92-36. It was a game that, in the grand commentary of the basketball world, won’t make a huge ripple in the narrative of the day, especially considering Griner’s release.

Forward Taylor Thierry, who continued a season of good performances on Thursday, is known within the team as a more subdued, timid, personality. After the game, Thierry gave a view into the emotions within the team upon hearing the announcement.

“Oh my gosh, we were all so happy,” exclaimed Thierry with a smile on her face. “I’m just happy for her. Her family gets to see her and hopefully her transition back ... goes well.”

Thierry chose Ohio State as a more under-the-radar signing than some, playing lower-division high school basketball in Cleveland, Ohio before joining the Buckeyes in 2021. Others on the team, like Guard Taylor Mikesell and forward Cotie McMahon, joined Ohio State and the Big Ten ranked in the top 100 in the country, on a path to playing professionally.

Players from all levels of amateur basketball have aspirations of reaching the level of Griner: a two-time Naismith Player of the Year, a two-time gold medalist, and a WNBA star with the Phoenix Mercury.

Ohio State is a program that attracts those who want to reach the WNBA. Lining the hallway that leads to the team’s practice court are plaques for all the former Buckeyes who have made it into the United States’ top women’s basketball league.

Names like Katie Smith, Jantel Lavender, and Kelsey Mitchell give recruits a look into the strength of the program and offers motivation to current players.

A player on the Buckeyes’ roster who is eyeing a place on that wall is forward Cotie McMahon. After a game in which McMahon led the Buckeyes with 20 points, five steals, and four rebounds, the freshman shared her feelings on the day’s news.

“I’m really happy that she’s free,” said McMahon. “I feel like it was long awaited but everything happens for a reason and she’s finally out.”

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Freshman and WNBA hopeful Cotie McMahon played her strongest game of the season against the University of New Hampshire Wildcats
Joseph Scheller/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s a sentiment felt by many, including head coach Kevin McGuff, who called the release “incredible” and wished everyone involved well.

While there wasn’t any formal acknowledgment of it in the game or on the court — which isn’t shocking considering that there’s no real connection between Griner and the Buckeyes’ basketball program — the excitement was felt throughout the team.