U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner’s Russian team praised her contribution to the country’s sport on Thursday as they shared testimony during her high-profile trial.
Griner, a two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and WNBA champion who had played in Russia, was detained in February, just days before Moscow launched its offensive in Ukraine.
The 31-year-old was charged with drug smuggling for possessing vape cartridges with cannabis oil.
Last week, she pleaded guilty and now faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison.
U.S. Basketball Star Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Russian Drug Charges
Griner was detained while returning to play basketball for UMMC Yekaterinburg, a team in the Russian Premier League.
“It’s the first time we saw our basketball player. She looks good,” Maxim Ryabkov, UMMC Yekaterinburg director, told reporters in the town of Khimki outside Moscow where the trial is being held.
“Our aim was to show what a big role she played in the club, in Russian basketball in general.”
Captain Yevgenia Belyakova said: “We very much miss her, her energy.”
Belyakova said she wanted to “stand by her in these moments” and hoped that the “case will be over.”
Maria Blagovolina, a member of the player’s defense team, said Ryabkov had told the court about Griner’s “outstanding abilities” and that thanks to her the Russian team had been very successful in recent years.
Griner, who is 2.06 meters tall, is considered one of the world’s best basketball players.