About 10 years after Kelsey Griffin had the greatest season ever by a Nebraska women’s basketball player in 2010 — she also led the program to its finest season that year — Griffin is still playing professional basketball.
If you’re surprised, so is Griffin. Especially after how she felt after her first years of pro basketball. But she’s found both a basketball home and a new home country playing in Australia since 2012.
“It’s unreal,” Griffin told the Journal Star on Thursday. “I think if you would have asked my coaches while I was here (at Nebraska), or my teammates, or even me, I would have said there is no way I’ll be playing 10 years after I graduate.
“I think a lot of why I’m still playing is from what was instilled in me during my time at Nebraska and a lot of the mental toughness and determination and competitive spirit. But then I think it was also finding my niche in Australia as well, which was a league that really appreciated those qualities as well. I think it was both of those things combining to allow for this career longevity, because I don't know if I hadn’t found Australia if I’d still be playing.”
Griffin is playing in Canberra in the Women’s National Basketball League. The overseas pro leagues are in season now, but some of them are taking a break because many of the players are playing Olympic-qualifying tournaments with their home countries.
That allowed Griffin to return to Lincoln to attend an alumni weekend for the Husker women’s program, and a celebration of the 2010 Big 12 championship team coached by Connie Yori. They’ll be honored during Nebraska’s game against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Griffin’s parents made the trip from their home in Alaska, too.
During the 2010 season, Griffin was a first-team All-American and national player-of-the year finalist after averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. After the season, she was the No. 3 pick in the WNBA Draft. She played 167 games in the WNBA over five seasons.
She also played professional basketball in Hungary and Israel. Then, on the recommendation of former Nebraska teammate Chelsea Aubry, Griffin went to Australia. Griffin thought she’d play one more year, and then she’d go to medical school.
But Griffin found a great team, loved the Aussie lifestyle and never looked back. She even became an Australian citizen during a process where she could prove to the country that she could be an asset through basketball.
“It’s a part of me, I suppose, and becoming Australian in 2015 I think that really solidified that’s where I love playing and love everything about it,” Griffin said.
She's been a member of the Australian national team since 2016, and played with the team in the Asia Cup in 2017 and the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
The Olympics will be played in 2020, and there's a chance Griffin could be selected for the Australian team. But teams are only allowed one naturalized player for the Olympics, and right now Australia is using that spot where it’s needed most — at point guard.
The 2010 Huskers had a 32-2 record, with the only losses coming in the second round of the conference tournament and in the program’s first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 game.
“I think the things that most resonate with me from that season was how special the group was,” Griffin said. “At the time I kind of knew it, but now because I’ve played for so many different teams and coaches, really realizing how special that group was, and the willingness to do the hard things and sacrifice for each other to play together.
“That just doesn’t happen that often in sports where no one's ego gets in the way. I just feel really blessed to have gotten an opportunity to play with that caliber of players — because we were talented — but also that caliber of people.”