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The basketball community showed solidarity in supporting Brittney Griner during the WNBA star's imprisonment in Russia, and was joyful when she was released Thursday in a prisoner exchange with the United States.

"It just made my day," said Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen, who won an Olympic gold medal with Griner in 2016. "This was something you saw on social media, you'd see news here and there. Some days it was it was front of mind. And other days you were going about your business and it was at the back of your mind. But it was always there. It has always been there. It's great for her and her family. I'm happy it is finally worked out."

The 32-year-old Griner was detained in February while in Russia to play for her winter team, UMKC Ekaterinburg, where she made more than $1 million per season. She was in a penal colony after being sentenced to nine years in prison for carrying a small amount of hash oil into the country.

"It's amazing, just relief, really, more than anything," said Lynx guard Napheesa Collier, herself an Olympic gold medalist. "I'm so relieved. I can't imagine what it's been like for the past nine months. So I'm happy for her and her family."

WNBA players, coaches and officials had been vocal and demonstrative in their support for Griner during the 2022 season.

"There has not been a day over the past 10 months where we all haven't had Brittney Griner on our minds and in our hearts, and that has now turned into a collective wave of joy and relief knowing that she will soon be reunited with her family, the WNBA player community, and her friends," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. "BG has shown extraordinary courage and dignity in the face of enormous adversity."

Griner, a 6-8 center, was a three-time All-America at Baylor before starting her WNBA career with the Phoenix Mercury in 2013. She is an eight-time All-Star and helped the Mercury win a league title in 2014. It's unclear if she plans to return to basketball; Phoenix paid her $228,000 salary last season despite her absence.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has been a prominent advocate for Griner's return. Staley, who coached Griner on the 2020 Olympic team, feels that playing again could be helpful to the dominant center.

"It's been a place in which we can block out everything else, join arms with our teammates. Listen to the incredible crowds that support our game. There's so much love that the basketball community has for Brittney that they want to show her," Staley said.

"We want her back in her happy place. So I hope that Brittney laces them up. But if she does not, I truly would understand why. We're still going to support it. We're still going to lift her up."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.