Sports

Brittney Griner blossoming on court for Phoenix Mercury, embracing gay role model status

  • FILE - In this June 3, 2014, file photo, Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner (42) shouts in celebration after scoring against the Seattle Storm during the first half of a WNBA basketball game  in Phoenix. After a difficult first season in the WNBA, the former Baylor star is blossoming into the player everyone thought she would be. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

    FILE - In this June 3, 2014, file photo, Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner (42) shouts in celebration after scoring against the Seattle Storm during the first half of a WNBA basketball game in Phoenix. After a difficult first season in the WNBA, the former Baylor star is blossoming into the player everyone thought she would be. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this June 3, 2014, file photo, Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner, left, shoots over Seattle Storm's Crystal Langhorne during the second half of a WNBA basketball game in Phoenix.  After a difficult first season in the WNBA, the former Baylor star is blossoming into the player everyone thought she would be.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

    FILE - In this June 3, 2014, file photo, Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner, left, shoots over Seattle Storm's Crystal Langhorne during the second half of a WNBA basketball game in Phoenix. After a difficult first season in the WNBA, the former Baylor star is blossoming into the player everyone thought she would be. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)  (The Associated Press)

After a tough first season in the WNBA, Brittney Griner is blossoming into the player everyone thought she would be, all the while embracing her status as a role model for gays.

Last season, Griner was in the spotlight after leaving Baylor, coming out and writing a candid memoir "In My Skin" that was critical of her college coach Kim Mulkey.

Griner says the book wasn't really a distraction, but the media attention "was crazy."

After playing in China during the WNBA offseason, Griner returned to the Phoenix Mercury stronger and more confident. As her Mercury teammate Diana Taurasi says, "She's a totally different player."

The 6-foot-8 Griner had her second dunk of the season in a win on Tuesday night, when Phoenix improved to a league-leading 17-3 record.