Lincoln - Fresh off her winter professional season in Israel, Kelsey Griffin returned to Lincoln Thursday, April 12, to see the Hendricks Training Complex for the first time and visit the Huskers.
The 2010 first-team All-American and WNBA first-round draft pick, returned to Nebraska early in the week after closing her second professional season overseas. She spent the first few days of her return adjusting to jet lag and visiting friends in Omaha before coming to Lincoln on Thursday.
"I love coming back to Nebraska," Griffin said. "It's so ironic because my first couple years at school here I was so homesick for Alaska that I dreaded getting on the plane," Griffin said. "Now I can't wait. I get so excited to come back to see everybody because this feels like home to me now. The people in Nebraska are so great, I love seeing as many people as I can when I come back."
Griffin, who had watched the video tours of Nebraska's new Hendricks Training Complex while she was competing for Maccabi Rabat Hen in Israel, got her first in-person tour of the practice facility on Thursday.
"This place is incredible," the 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year said. "The players and coaches have just about everything they could ask for to be successful. It makes me feel awesome to know that I, and the players I played with when I was at Nebraska, kind of helped build this place for the current players. We really bought into the concept that we were helping to build something special for future players when we were at Nebraska, and this is part of it. With the Hendricks Complex and the new arena coming in 2013, Nebraska is going to have a lot to offer future players in the program."
Griffin visited with Coach Connie Yori and Nebraska staff members for about an hour before surprising current Huskers and former teammates with an appearance during a team weight-lifting session.
Nebraska junior point guard Lindsey Moore, a freshman on Nebraska's 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 team when Griffin was a senior, was thrilled.
"I can't believe she is standing here right now," Moore said. "Oh my gosh, I'm so excited. This is awesome."
Griffin, a three-time first-team All-Big 12 selection as a forward at Nebraska from 2006 to 2010, followed Nebraska's 2011-12 season closely from afar this year, regularly listening to Husker games on the free audio broadcasts provided by Huskers.com. She also had the opportunity to watch Nebraska on television and video streams through the Big Ten Network on several occasions.
"I'm really excited about this team for the future," Griffin said. "They have some really good young players. Obviously Lindsey Moore is a great point guard, and Jordan Hooper has a ton of talent. I wasn't too crazy about Emily Cady wearing my No. 23, but after watching her play a few times, I love the way she plays. She plays so hard. She wears No. 23 well. She can have it as long as she needs it."
During the late stages of Nebraska's run to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the 2010 Wade, Naismith and Wooden National Player-of-the-Year finalist also took some time out from her season to e-mail a message to the current Huskers as part of their regular leadership enhancement sessions.
"It is really special to be not only welcomed back to Nebraska but to continue to feel like I am part of the program," Griffin said. "I know that is not the case for a lot of players at other places around the country. Nebraska is a special place."
Griffin will head home to Eagle River, Alaska for two weeks before traveling to Connecticut for the start of her third WNBA training camp with the Connecticut Sun.
The WNBA Draft will be held Monday, April 16, and the Sun carry the No. 9 picks in both the first and second rounds of the three-round draft. WNBA training camps are set to being on Sunday, April 29. The Sun play the first of three exhibition games on May 7, when they face the New York Liberty.
In two WNBA seasons with Connecticut, Griffin has appeared in 68 games with 21 starts, averaging 4.0 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Last season, she helped the Sun to the WNBA playoffs. After being taken with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx, Griffin was immediately traded to Connecticut, where she earned one of five spots on the 2010 WNBA All-Rookie Team.
Griffin spent the 2010-11 European season playing for Pecs Hungary, before playing for Maccabi Rabat Hen in Israel in 2011-12. In Israel, Griffin averaged 16.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 53.3 percent from the field. Griffin closed the season with four consecutive double-doubles, including 31 points and 13 rebounds against Elizur Natanya, and 20 points and 16 rebounds and Elizur Holon.
She was teammates with fellow American players Danielle Robinson (Oklahoma), Darxia Morris (UCLA) and Charde Houston (Connecticut), in the Israeli league that allowed four American players per roster in 2011-12.