American Brittney Griner has been selected as a starter in the WNBA All-Star Game just six months after being released from prison in Russia.
Griner, 32, spent 10 months in Russian custody for possessing cannabis oil before being released in a high-profile prisoner exchange in December.
She has played nine times for the Phoenix Mercury in 2023, having missed the entire 2022 season.
The All-Star Game takes place in Las Vegas on 15 July.
Griner had been playing in the Russian Premier League when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February 2022. She pleaded guilty to the charges, was sentenced to nine years in prison and sent to a penal colony.
Her release was granted after the US government struck a deal with Russia in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
It is the ninth time that Griner has been selected as an All-Star, including last year when she was named as an honorary player by WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
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The two-time Olympic gold medallist made her competitive return as the Mercury lost 94-71 against the Los Angeles Sparks in May and she was greeted by vice-president Kamala Harris before the game.
Griner leads the way for average blocks per game in the WNBA this season with figures of 2.4, despite missing three games with a hip injury.
The Phoenix Mercury are bottom of the standings with just two wins from 12 fixtures and head coach Vanessa Nygaard was sacked on Sunday with assistant coach Nikki Blue placed in temporary charge for the remainder of the campaign.
Written by: Debby Eselebor
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