Baylor’s Griner more than just girl who can dunk
Brittney Griner arrived at Baylor known as the girl who could
The 6-foot-8 Griner has obliged over the years with some
rim-rattling highlights. Even in her last regular-season home game,
she made a quick spin move around a Kansas State defender on the
baseline for a one-handed slam.
While the 14 career dunks are impressive – fun, too – Griner
always wanted to be known for more than just slamming the ball. Add
in all the blocks, points and championships, and she has indeed
proven to be so much more in four seasons with the Lady Bears.
”A lot of people come up to me all the time and just tell me,
just compliment me on my game, other than the dunks and the
scoring,” she said. ”Just how I find my teammates and just
everything, how I move on the court. That let me know right there
that, hey, I’m kind of getting away from the YouTube dunker
Going into her final NCAA tournament, the defending national
champion Lady Bears (32-1) are again the No. 1 overall seed. They
have a nation’s-best 55-game winning streak at home, where they
play their tourney opener Sunday night against SWAC champion
Prairie View (17-14).
Griner is the Big 12 career scoring leader with 3,203 points,
190 short of the NCAA record with no more than six games left. She
has a nearly 7 1/2-foot wingspan that contributes greatly to the
record she really cherishes: 736 blocked shots, more than any other
man or woman ever in the NCAA.
”She’s one of a kind,” Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said.
”Look at the great run that Baylor has made with the Final Four
and national championship, and really, a second potential national
championship on the line, her impact is hard to measure with
The dunk against Kansas State was part of Griner’s Big 12-record
50 points in a game. Five days later in the Big 12 tournament,
Griner had 19 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high nine assists in
another game against the Wildcats.
”No matter what anybody says, she’s not great because of her
size,” Patterson said. ”She’s great because she continued to
improve her repertoire and compete extraordinarily well.”
Her high school dunks made Griner a YouTube sensation, with as
many as seven per game for Houston Nimitz. They even caught the
attention of the likes of NBA superstar LeBron James, who met
Griner when she was still in high school and has kept up with her
”She’s awesome,” James said. ”It’s not like she’s just
catching and laying it or dunking every time either. She’s shooting
turnaround jumpers. She’s drop-stepping over her left shoulder,
right shoulder, shooting jumpers. She’s got a fadeaway jumper. And
she’s dunking the ball, too. She’s great.”
Griner still hears plenty of jeers and taunts from opposing fans
during games. And there is no shortage of insults and insinuations
about her on social media.
Griner used to be bothered and angered by some of the things
said and written about her. She shrugs it off now.
”I went on Twitter and typed in my name just to see what people
were saying, and it was pretty funny,” Griner said. ”They don’t
know what they’re talking about. They’re mad, (I) probably beat
their team. They’re jealous. … In one ear, out the other, and I
use it kind of as entertainment really, just to see some of the
ignorant stuff that they will say.”
Or what will be made up, like the fake Twitter account somebody
created representing the New Orleans Pelicans (the future name of
the NBA’s Hornets) to congratulate Anthony Davis, the first overall
pick in last year’s NBA draft, for ”becoming engaged to Brittney
That obviously wasn’t true, but it even surprised Griner,
certain to be the WNBA’s first overall pick this year.
”It sounded legit how they said it, and worded it,” she said.
”I was like, `Wow!’ Kind of made me believe. … I looked at my
The only ring she had on was the one signifying the Lady Bears’
national championship last year, going undefeated in the NCAA’s
first 40-win season.
”Brittney Griner, after winning the national championship last
year, should have erased any doubt in people’s minds as the
greatest to ever play the game,” coach Kim Mulkey said.
It’s hard to believe that Griner was like any other freshman
when she arrived, nervous and unsure what to expect. The Lady Bears
went 27-10 her first season, and made it to the NCAA Final Four
before a national semifinal loss to Connecticut. They are 106-4
There was also that punch late in her freshman season after
tangling under the basket with a Texas Tech player. After being
slung back and lunging toward the baseline, Griner stopped, took
two steps and delivered a roundabout right to Jordan Barncastle’s
Like so many of Griner’s dunks, the video of that punch went
viral. She got an automatic one-game NCAA suspension, and Mulkey
added a second. It’s something Griner still regrets happened.
But Griner is constantly pushed and shoved during games with
opposing teams often putting two, three and sometimes even more
defenders on her.
As fierce as Griner can be during games, including occasional
scowls and chest pounding, she is fun-loving and often goofy off
After her 50-point game on senior night, Griner pedaled around
the court on a tricycle used for student races during timeouts of
Baylor games. She rides an elongated skateboard on campus, where
other students find out she’s just another college kid.
”She’s a great person. She talks to everybody. She’s always
laughing and joking around,” said Baylor men’s point guard Pierre
Jackson, the Big 12’s leading scorer. ”She just makes everybody
Jackson was a junior college transfer and admittedly ”kind of
star-struck” by her when he first got to Baylor two years ago. She
introduced herself to Jackson to break the ice.
There are less than three weeks left in her college career that
Griner realizes ”just went so quick.” She will leave an indelible
mark on the women’s game, even though she cringes when asked about
her impact on the game.
”I just feel like I’m adding on,” she said. ”I guess you can
say I’m changing the defensive end … just because I’m so big and
I move. I’m not stationary.
”I want people to look back and be like, `Dang, I remember when
I played her back in college, she was a game-changer on the
defensive end,” Griner added. ”I want that to be my mark on the
Well, that’s a slam dunk.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report from