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WNBA champion Sky return to practice; detained Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner is on many minds

CHICAGO (CBS/AP) -- The reigning WNBA champion Sky are starting training camp this week – and with all five starters back from the team that beat Phoenix in the finals.

The WNBA has not had a repeat champion in 20 years. But the Sky will be trying to run it back after winning their first league title last fall.

They understand that heavy is the head that wears the crown.

"We worked really, really hard to kind of put it together for a championship run – so we're still really hungry in that. But also, we know that we're a target now. We have that defending champion title, and people are going to be coming forward for us," said Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot. "So it's difficult at any level – especially this. It's a reason why a lot of people haven't repeated. But you know, we're up for the challenge."

Meanwhile, Vandersloot and Allie Quigley expressed serious concern for Brittney Griner, the Phoenix Mercury star who has been detained in Russia after since arriving at a Moscow airport in mid-February. Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. 

On March 18, a Russian court extended the star's detention to May 19. She is being held in a pre-trial detention center near Moscow, where she will stay until her next court appearance. 

"I think about it every day, and you know, every time, you just get that feeling in your stomach and it's just helpless, you know?" Quigley said. "All of us feel helpless that there's nothing we can really do besides just think about her, pray for her."

"It's incredibly difficult. It's obviously very close to home, because, you know, it could have been any one of us that were over there at the time, and it's really unfortunate, you know, we just want our friend and our teammate home," added Vandersloot.

Griner was in Russia playing for the team UMMC Ekaterinburg, which she has done for the past seven years. Russian teams offer WNBA players like Griner an opportunity to make additional money during the U.S' off season. The 31-year-old, who won a national championship at Baylor, a WNBA championship and two Olympic gold medals, makes almost $1 million per season in Russia, according to the Associated Press. 

Griner's detainment has been denounced by several major American politicians and sports organizations. 

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