Baylor's Griner, stardom are perfect fit

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 4, 2011 - 12:27 AM

The 6-8 center plays above the rim, but her persona isn't over the top for the top-ranked women's basketball team in the country.


Baylor center Brittney Griner worked on adding muscle to make her more formidable in the post.

Photo: Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

As a basketball coach, Kim Mulkey knows divas. She also knows how easy it is to become one, particularly for a 6-8 woman who can play above the rim like no one else in the history of the women's game.

That's why the Baylor coach is so proud to note that Brittney Griner has kept her feet on the ground -- at least when she's not rising up to throw down a dunk or block a shot. The junior center has been one of the most talked-about players in women's basketball since her freshman year. Already a two-time All-America, she is poised to make another leap this year, after adding 20 pounds of muscle and spending her summer playing with Team USA.

Sunday, the Gophers will try their hand at slowing Griner and the rest of the top-ranked Lady Bears at Williams Arena. They will see a player who is stronger, more mobile on defense and overflowing with desire to win a national championship. What they won't see, Mulkey said, is a diva, which makes her love Griner all the more.

"People see that big body, and they expect her to be a brute, to be a mean person," said Mulkey, whose team is 7-0 this season with victories over No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 6 Tennessee. "That is so not Brittney. She is the most pleasant, humble, fun-loving, people-pleasing kid. ... If she continues to mature and stay hungry, which I know she will, I can only imagine how much better she will become.''

That is a fearsome thought for any team on Baylor's schedule. With a wingspan of 7 feet, 4 inches and a standing reach of 9-2, Griner's size alters opponents' strategies. Add in her smooth moves in the low post, her shooting ability and her quick, size-17 feet, and her package of skills makes her dominant on both ends of the floor.

Griner, who dunked 52 times as a high school senior, has done so five times in college. She is averaging a career-high 24.4 points this year and has hit double figures in her past 47 contests. Though Griner is routinely double- and triple-teamed, that is a risky strategy given Baylor's balance. Give her too much attention, and you free up point guard Odyssey Sims (19.3 points per game) and forward Destiny Williams (11.2).

Gophers forwards Katie Loberg (6-4) and Jackie Voigt (6-1) will literally have a tall order in defending Griner. Coach Pam Borton said her team will have to "try everything we have in our magic hat'' to get in Griner's way without taking it easy on her teammates.

"It's going to be a collective job as a post group," Voigt said. "We need to be active and make her work for every single shot, for every pass that's thrown to her. We have to make her make plays. And if their shooters are hot, you have to pick your poison."

Griner also poses a challenge to the Gophers offense. She has blocked 429 shots in 79 career games and set an NCAA single-season record with 223 blocks as a freshman. She even makes teams change game plans. Last season, the Lady Bears' opponents took 750 shots from beyond the three-point line, compared to 570 in the season before she arrived.

Still, she continues to improve. Griner was heartbroken by Baylor's loss to Texas A&M in an NCAA regional final last season, which drove her to make the weight room her summer home. Her additional muscle has helped her maintain position in the post and withstand the constant beatings she takes, and she also has worked to become more aggressive on the offensive boards.

Mulkey noted that Griner, a co-captain last year, flourished in that role. She is the sole captain this season.

"My goal is to always get better, to never be content with where I'm at,'' Griner said. "I always want to learn more. The way last year ended was all the motivation I needed to get in the gym and do whatever I had to do. I am very driven to win a national championship this year."

Borton called Griner a one-of-a-kind player, wondering whether there will ever be another like her. Mulkey isn't sure she will come across many who can measure up to her, for lots of reasons.

"We will see great players throughout the game,'' she said. "But how many will we ever see who can say they play above the rim? She does things that no other players have done. She has changed the way all of us think."

  • related content

  • Gameday: Gophers vs. No. 1 Baylor

    Saturday December 3, 2011

    Gophers at a glance: The Gophers (4-4) return to Williams Arena for the first time in two weeks, playing the top-ranked team in the nation to open a four-game homestand....

  • The way last year ended was all the motivation I needed to get in the gym and do whatever I had to do," Baylor's Brittney Griner said. "I am very driven to win a national championship this year."


    1 p.m. Sunday vs. No. 1 Baylor • Williams Arena • TV: BTN (1500ESPN)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


San Francisco 3 Bottom 2nd Inning
Kansas City 0
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Houston 30 2nd Qtr 8:48
Miami 23
Indiana 33 2nd Qtr 6:48
Minnesota 36
Utah 30 2nd Qtr 8:32
Oklahoma City 26
Portland 8:00 PM
Phoenix 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
Golden State
San Jose 3 3rd Prd
Boston 2
NY Rangers 1 3rd Prd
New Jersey 2
Toronto 5 3rd Prd
NY Islanders 2
Detroit 0 2nd Prd 9:53
Montreal 0
Arizona 1 2nd Prd
Nashville 1
Carolina 1 1st Prd :28
Winnipeg 2
Philadelphia 0 1st Prd 14:54
Chicago 0
Vancouver 0 1st Prd 12:43
Dallas 1
Florida 8:00 PM
Tampa Bay 8:00 PM
Arkansas State 9 1st Qtr 0:23
Louisiana 13
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA




question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question