By Krista Pirtle
and Alexa Brackin
Sports Editor and News Editor
After bringing home major national awards last season one after the other, senior post Brittney Griner is back in the green and gold for her final season as a Lady Bear. Averaging 23.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.2 blocks a game, Griner has both dominated and changed the game of women’s basketball. Even though Griner is a force of nature on the hardwood, she doesn’t stop improving her game.
“You talk about great talent,” Oklahoma State women’s basketball head coach Jim Littell said. “In my opinion, Brittney is the greatest player the women’s game has ever seen. Until somebody comes on, I’m not going to change that opinion. She continues to get better each year, which is a scary thought for the rest of us in the conference. She’s added a lot of dimension to her game. She’s able to step outside now. She’s a great free throw shooter. She’s become more physical.”
While some opposing coaches see Griner’s impact on her ability to play the game of basketball, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma initially sees her size.
“Easiest answer is she has made such a big impact by being 6-8,” Auriemma said. “She’s 6-8, she’s long and she affects the game on both ends of the floor. Look at how much Tina Charles or Nneka Ogwumike impacted the game and think about how much more of an impact they would have by being 4-5 inches taller. You can see someone with that kind of ability and with that kind of length is going to be the dominant factor on offense and the dominant factor on defense. Because there is no one like her in America, it sets her apart from everyone else.”
For the upcoming season, Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey challenged her to focus on her offensive boards.
“I won one [championship,] but that’s in the past,” Griner said. “I never get complacent really. I’ve got to keep pushing harder and working on everything. Coach challenged me this season to get more offensive rebounds, and that’s what I’m going to do. Coach challenges me; I react.”
Griner’s biggest reaction that gets the fans attention is her ability to block shots from anywhere on the court. It doesn’t matter where a player squares up at, Griner’s 7-foot-4-inch wing span will make her presence known.
“I think the biggest way that she’s changed the game is the lane disappears when she’s in the game,” Littell said. “You just don’t get anything free at the rim. The opportunity for easy baskets goes away. And it’s going to take somebody to have the ability to shoot 60 plus percent from the perimeter to up end them.”
In 2010 with the removal of Nebraska and Colorado from the Big 12 conference, every Big 12 basketball team played each other twice in the season, not including the Big 12 tournament.
“Brittney has been the most unique player I have coached against in my career,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “Her size and the skill set she has developed makes her unlike anyone I have seen.”
Among the elite women’s college basketball teams in the country, Griner had the choice to play for Pat Summitt at Tennessee, she played for Auriemma on the USA Basketball European tour in the summer of 2011 and she faced Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer in the Final Four last season.
“Brittney is a very unique and very special player, and I am a great fan of hers,” VanDerveer said. “She has been a very fun player to watch, and I know that she will continue to have a major impact on the game in the WNBA as she has in college.”