Deep breaths working wonders for Sun's Griffin

Connecticut's Kelsey Griffin looks to the basket for a shot against the defense of Minnesota's Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen, right, in a game on May 18 in Minneapolis. Griffin has been more comfortable in her fifth season with the Sun.
Connecticut's Kelsey Griffin looks to the basket for a shot against the defense of Minnesota's Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen, right, in a game on May 18 in Minneapolis. Griffin has been more comfortable in her fifth season with the Sun. Stacy Bengs/AP Photo

Mohegan — Kelsey Griffin always wanted a tattoo, so she decided to get one with a practical purpose after her 2010 rookie season.

Griffin's tat is one simple word located on the inside of her left arm. "Breathe."

"It's no real secret. My first three years in Connecticut really had its ups and downs," said Griffin, a Connecticut Sun forward. "One of my best friends (Megan Volk) and my mom always tell me to keep breathing. When I get tense or tighten up, I stop breathing.

"(The tattoo) just seemed right at the time. How silly would it be if someone has, 'breathe,' tattooed on their arm and isn't breathing?"

Griffin has never been as calm and confident as she's been this season. She's also taken on a leadership role after the Sun added two rookies and three second-year players.

Connecticut plays host to the Washington Mystics tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena (7 p.m.).

"I definitely feel more assertive," Griffin said. "I think I've been in the league long enough to know what it's about. When you see great young talent come in like (rookies) AT (Alyssa Thomas) and Chiney (Ogwumike), I know the process I went through, and I want to help their process go as smoothly as possible."

Sun coach Anne Donovan and Griffin both agreed that the latter literally found her voice after Connecticut was beat down at Washington last September (82-56). Griffin spoke up in the locker room in what she said was a PG speech.

"It was just kind of the final straw," Griffin said, "being on a team that was so talented, but yet not being able to come together. I'm the kind of player and person that if you work hard and do everything you can, but you still do it wrong, that's OK. I can live with that as long as your intention (is good) and you're trying as hard as you could.

"I didn't feel like as a team we were collectively doing that. I feel like your teammates deserve better, the organization deserves better and more importantly the fans that are paying deserve better. It was just kind of a breaking point for me."

Donovan said: "She was one of the strongest voices in that locker room. We all remember that very thoroughly because it caught everybody a little bit by surprise. … This year, she has people that respect her and appreciate her and want to follow her. I don't think that was the case before. I think that adds to her confidence level."

Griffin has averaged 23.2 minutes as a starter with 7.2 rebounds for Connecticut (2-5). She missed Sunday's game after experiencing pain that morning and doctors thought she might have a gastrointestinal problem. Tests taken that day at the hospital that were inconclusive and she'll have to undergo more tests. She plans to play tonight.

News and notes

• Ogwumike was named the WNBA's Rookie of the Month for May. She ranked in the Top 10 in points (17.2) and rebounds (9.2), and had a league-leading 24 offensive rebounds. … Sun guard Kelly Faris spoke to the Old Lyme High School girls' lacrosse team at their practice Wednesday. Old Lyme athletic director Bill Buscetto has gotten to know Faris and sung the Wildcats' praises to her. Faris volunteered to visit them.

n.griffen@theday.com

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