Each week leading up to the Olympic Games later this summer, we will introduce you to the WNBA players who will be representing their countries in Athens. From first-timers to veteran Olympians, the WNBA's best and brightest stars will be showcasing their skills on the world's biggest stage.

Yolanda Griffith, United States
By Matt Wurst, WNBA.com
The Basics

Country United States
Hometown Chicago, Illinois
WNBA Team Sacramento Monarchs
Position Center
Height 6-4
Weight 175 lbs.
Birthday March 1, 1970
Olympic exp. 2000
It may not happen often, but the U.S. Women's National Team misses shots. And when they do, Yolanda Griffith is there to grab the loose ball.

A relative newcomer to international basketball competition prior to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sidney, the tough Sacramanto Monarchs center became a dominant inside factor in the USA's gold medal run. In the eight wins, she was the team's top rebounder (8.8 rpg) and third highest scorer (11.5 ppg). Prior to the Olympics, as a member of the 1999-2000 USA National Team, Griffith was the squad's second leading scorer (10.4 ppg) and third best rebounder (6.1 rpg), while aiding the squad to a 38-2 pre-Olympic record. Not bad for someone's whose only previous USA Basketball experience came a decade earlier, as a member of the 1990 U.S. Olympic Festival team.

As a professional superstar, Griffith has quietly gone about her business. She got her professional start in Germany, where she played from 1993-97, but was a big hit in two ABL seasons. She was selected as the No. 1 pick of the 1997 ABL Draft and was named the 1998 ABL Defensive Player of the Year and All-ABL First Team. Griffith was then selected by the Monarchs as the No. 2 pick in the 1999 WNBA Draft and made another immediate impact in the league, collecting MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and All-WNBA First Team accolades in 1999.

Over her first five full seasons, the four-time WNBA All-Star (1999-2001, 2003) has led the Monarchs to four playoff berths and the 2001 and 2003 Western Conference Finals. She spent this past offseason playing in Russia and did not play in the exhibition tour with the U.S.A. Basketball Women's Team, but was officially named to the team on June 19, 2004.

Griffith will be going to her second Olympics
(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
Up close and Personal

Do you have a favorite Olympic sport other than basketball?
"Track and field."

Are there any athletes in particular that you admire or respect a great deal?
"Marion Jones. She is a warrior and I like her attitude. She isn’t cocky, but she’s got that stroke about herself."

You were a member of the 2000 gold medal team, so how does the 2004 team compare?
"The team that we had in 2000 was a great team, but I am looking forward to seeing how the team we have now will gel. I want to see how good we are, because on paper, we are great again. The team we have is probably the best Olympic team ever so I am looking forward to just getting out there and playing."

Do you get the sense that other countries are closing the gap on the United States?
"I think other countries are closing the gap a bit on us. They have an edge on us right now because we are in the middle of a WNBA season and we have to hope that no one has a major injury. We need to go into the Olympics healthy. Other countries have kept their players together. The game has changed. You see a lot of Americans going overseas, learning how other countries play and live."

You didn't get to play with the team in the spring exhibitions, so how much are you looking forward to getting to play with them all again?
"I won't think about it until we get to Athens. Right now, we need to get prepared mentally and physically. When we leave the States and get to Athens, that is when I will really enjoy it."

Do you have a favorite memory from your experiences in 2000?
"The Opening Ceremonies were very nice. It was very long, but my favorite memory was immediately after we won, I jetted up into the stands where my daughter was, gave her a big ol’ hug, and was high-fiving all the fans. That was a special moment because we had a lot of family members traveling with us. I was away from my daughter training for the 2000 Olympics for so long, that to have her there and experience that with me, was just overwhelming. Then we got our gold medal and they played the national anthem."

Game on Game

Tina Thompson, U.S. teammate:
"Rebounding… I think that Yolanda is probably the best offensive and defensive rebounder I've ever faced."

Katie Smith, U.S. teammate:
"Yo is a rebounding maniac! She is very low-key and I really enjoy hanging out with her."

Sheryl Swoopes, U.S. teammate:
"She is an extremely talented offensive rebounder and a great defender.."

Svetlana Abrosimova, Team Russia forward:
"She is so big and so athletic. If she doesn't have a shot she throws it up there and gets her own rebound and makes it."

Dawn Staley, U.S. teammate:
"She is the loose ball queen. She is a rebounding machine, and she is a magnet for that ball."

 

USA Basketball Statistics

TEAM
G/S
FGM-FGA
PCT
3PM-3PA
PCT
FTM-FTA
PCT
RPG
PPG
AST
BLK
STL
2000 OLY
8/ 8
37- 54
.685
0- 0
.000
18- 24
.750
8.8
11.5
3
3
8
1999-00 WNT
33/11
137- 227
.604
0- 0
.---
69- 106
.651
6.1
10.4
27
24
64
1998 WNT
5/-
13- 36
.361
0- 0
.---
7- 17
.412
8.8
6.6
2
4
11
1990 USOFN
4/-
10- 31
.323
0- 1
.000
8- 18
.444
8.8
7.0
3
5
3
Totals
50/19
197- 348
.566
0- 1
.000
102- 165
.618
7.0
9.9
35
36
86

Previous:
Dawn Staley, USA
Sue Bird, USA
Tina Thompson, USA
Katie Smith, USA
Lauren Jackson, Australia
Lisa Leslie, USA
Tamika Catchings, USA
Swin Cash, USA

E-mail this story

More »

Video

Shoni Schimmel's Incredible Circus Shot From All-Angles

Watch as Shoni Schimmel makes an unbelievable 360 circus shot over Brittney Griner.

Boost Mobile presents Be Heard Sessions: Briann January

Check out who inspires Briann January and how she uses social media to “Be Heard."

Poetry in Motion

Take slowed down look at the All-Star Game 2014 through the lens of the WNBA's Phantom camera.

Maya Moore answers fan questions live from WNBA All-Star

Nneka Ogwumike sat down with Maya Moore during Friday’s All-Star practice session and answered questions from fans as a part of #WNBALive.

Schimmel 3-Point Barrage

Shoni Schimmel drops seven 3-pointers in the WNBA All-Star game.