Notebook: Brittney Griner’s game does the talking
DENVER – Brittney Griner isn’t going to wow you with her prose. She isn’t going to wax on about her game or pontificate about the way she’s revolutionized women’s college basketball this year. That’s not her style.
Her answers during Saturday’s media day previewing Baylor’s NCAA Final Four game were short and succinct; her game does enough talking.
Griner, Baylor’s All-American post player, is what many would call a once-a-generation – heck, once-a-lifetime – player that can cause even the most hardcore men’s basketball fan to tune in for a peek. Her 6-foot-8 frame, 87½-inch wingspan and high-level athleticism make her interesting. Her ability to dunk and block shot after shot make her intriguing, and her constant desire to get better – even though she’s the best player the game has seen in quite some time – makes her a coach’s dream.
Griner, who was named the Associated Press’ women’s college basketball Player of the Year on Saturday, averages 23.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and has 199 blocks this season.
“Brittney is a blessing every day I go to work,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “Because so many great ones that are as good as she is and have done more than she has done, you don’t enjoy coaching them sometimes because they know they’re good and they don’t work hard and they have an attitude about them that they’re better than everybody else.
“When I’m done with Brittney Griner, the thing I’ll tell people is: ‘That child brought her work pail to work every day. She brought it every day to practice’.”
If there’s one thing Griner is adamant about, it’s her devotion to Baylor basketball. Despite being the best collegiate player and perhaps a rare collegiate addition to the women’s Olympic team, Griner maintains that she’s not leaving after this season for the WNBA. So, sorry opposing coaches, she’ll still be here next year.
“As far as me leaving, I’m staying,” Griner said. “I made a commitment. I said I was coming here and I’m going to stay here until my time’s up. So all the speculations of me leaving early are false. I’m staying here, right here at Baylor.”
RG3 in attendance
As Baylor athletics is going through a renaissance with the success of its football and basketball teams, the face of the transformation has been quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, and he’ll be in Denver cheering on the Lady Bears.
Mulkey said Griffin texted her asking for tickets to the Final Four and she had no qualms about getting some for the potential No. 1 or No. 2 pick in April’s NFL draft.
And Griffin and star forward Brittney Griner also have become close as Baylor’s two most recognizable faces have decided to square off in a dunking contest. Griner has already dunked twice in the NCAA Tournament, but Griffin thinks he can take her.
“Yes, he did and I told him I’m going to dunk on him,” Griner said when asked about Griffin’s proposal.
The two probably won’t play until after Griner’s senior season in 2013, but she already maintains that she’ll have no problem beating RG3.
“I am [going to win]. No problem,” she said.
While Griffin will be on Baylor’s side cheering on the Lady Bears, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was asked whether former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who also is vying to be the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, would make an appearance.
“I haven’t made the effort,” VanDerveer said of reaching out to Luck. “Maybe John Elway. He might be in town. I’d take him.”
Elway, who is a Stanford grad, is the executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos.
Mile high expectations
Several former Baylor women’s basketball players will be in attendance for Sunday’s Final Four game against Baylor, and they knew all along their Lady Bears would be vying for the national championship.
In fact, they were so confident, several purchased their Final Four tickets, airfare and hotel accommodations back in February.
“Oh yeah, we bought our tickets like a month or a month and a half ago,” former Lady Bear Sophia Young said. “We were confident, you know? We thought Baylor was going to be there. There were no doubts in our minds. Fortunately, we weren’t let down.”
Of course, if Baylor hadn’t made it to the Final Four, Young said the former players still would have gone and had a good time, but it makes it that much more exciting that they can root for their alma mater and the coach for whom they played.
“We were just going to enjoy Denver because we had never really been there,” Young said. “So we were just going to go and hang out. So, we were going to go in any case, but we just knew. They didn’t really have much competition, so we were pretty confident that it was gonna happen.”