Griner Goes Above the Rim to Make an Impact

Jan. 27, 2010

By Jeff Powers
Special for USA TODAY

WACO, Texas -- In Brittney Griner's first semester at Baylor, her school load included theater appreciation, sociology and a non-conference basketball schedule converted into a 13-1 start.

The 6-8 wunderkind dunked three times (twice in one game), recorded her first triple-double and immediately zeroed in on the Big 12 Conference women's record for blocks in a season.

But this semester, conference competition has proved much tougher. With the only returning Baylor starter from last season sidelined, the Lady Bears have dropped three of their first four Big 12 games and fallen out of the top 10 of the USA TODAY/ESPN poll. They fell four spots to 16th, after being ranked as high as fifth in late December and early January. The drop is not surprising since the Big 12 boasts six other teams in the poll.

"The intensity level went through the roof," Griner said of conference play. "You just have to experience it."

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey sees Griner as both immensely talented and tremendously eager to improve. "As good as she is, Brittney understands she's never won a championship," said Mulkey, whose previous nine seasons at Baylor have included eight trips to the NCAA tournament and the 2005 national title. "She wants to win a championship and will do whatever it takes.

"She doesn't want to disappoint her coaches. ... When you have a kid that's that good, that knows she can get so much better and doesn't have a prima donna attitude, there's a sweetness about her."

Griner entered the nation's sporting consciousness when a video of her dunking in practice during her sophomore year at Nimitz High School in Houston hit YouTube. But her recruitment was relatively low-key because she didn't start playing basketball until her freshman year (previously playing soccer and volleyball) and because she committed to Baylor after her sophomore season. Mulkey got a jump on the competition because Griner's summer league coach was the father of one of her players at the time, Jessica Morrow.

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