By Parmida Schahhosseini
Opposing teams fear her. She has become the face of women’s college basketball, and she is now an NCAA record holder.
That defensive pressure comes from senior center Brittney Griner, who is a force to be reckoned with on the court not just because dunks or the amount of offense she brings to the games. The intangibles are what make the difference.
“Griner, best player in the country, bar none,” West Virginia head coach Mike Carey said. “She’s gotten better every year and she’s under control at all times. As a coach, you think she’s going over somebody’s back. She’s really not. She’s jumping over them.”
The six time Big 12 Player of the Week is the lone collegiate player to make the USA Basketball roster. Griner also holds the NCAA record for career dunks at 11 and the NCAA record for blocked shots at 665. Griner is also the first player to score over 2,000 points and record 500 blocked shots, which displays her effect on both the offense and the defense.
On the offensive side of the field, Griner is ninth in the nation in points per game with 21.5 and 408 points this season. She is also ranked sixth in the nation, and first in the Big 12, in field goal percentage at 59 percent, making 170 out of 288.
But Griner doesn’t do it all herself. She has a great supporting cast to help her out. They play as one unified squad.
Griner opens up the field for her other teammates to score, and they help her with assists or shooting, which takes some of the pressure off of her. Playing team basketball is a skill that she has acquired while playing under head coach Kim Mulkey.
“Last year, I guess I started getting even more patient,” Griner said after the National Championship game against Notre Dame. “I couldn’t get my hands on the ball, keep moving. Whatever I can do, I will do. I took it a play at a time, post up strong when I had to. Did whatever I could to help my team out.”
However, Griner’s effect on the defense is what stands out. Not only does she hold the NCAA record for career blocks, but also she is a big reason as to why Baylor only allowed one team to shoot over 50 percent in 235 games. Many teams have to change their offense because they have to deal with having a talented 6-foot-8-inch center protecting the basket. Because of Griner’s presence, teams settle for more outside shots against the Bears.
This season, teams have shot 414 shots from 3-point range against the Lady Bears, but the rest of the Big 12 averages 316.1 3-point attempts, with Kansas allowing only 220 attempts. This is the pressure that Baylor’s defense puts on opposing teams. The key to her success is the versatility she brings. This allows for head coach Kim Mulkey to draw up creative plays. Griner draws two or three people allowing other players to have more open looks.
“She didn’t really know a whole lot of moves,” Mulkey said earlier this season about Griner’s first days at Baylor. “She just turned, shot, dunked, jump shot. But she’s learned how to read the defender; she’s learned how to feel the defender. Brittney is an athlete in that body. If I wanted to draw up 3-point plays, Brittney Griner could shoot 3-point shots, easily. If I wanted to draw up something where I give her the ball and set screens and say take them off the dribble, Brittney Griner can do that.”
Griner has 2,835 career points and needs two points to break the Big 12 scoring record, held by Oklahoma State’s Andrea Riley. She will likely break this record during Baylor’s next game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Texas Tech.