Friday, March 5, 2010

Yes, We Weigh in On Brittney Griner

Hi, this is C here, reporting on something about women’s basketball that doesn’t have anything to do with Stanford. One thing I have been meaning to do is write about Baylor’s freshman sensation Brittney Griner, but I have been too busy/lazy. I thought I could continue being busy/lazy, but this week’s circumstances have sorta forced the issue. So here I am talking about Brittney Griner.

Let’s recap. Brittney Griner is a freshman that stands 6’8" and has already been a You Tube sensation for her dunking abilities in high school, and was expected to "play above the rim”, meaning dunking many times in college and being an incredible shot blocker. Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, perhaps giving in to the hype, started her in their first game this year, against powerhouse Tennessee, of all teams. In my opinion, she was not ready to play college level ball, especially not against a well-coached Tennessee team. I watched her being tentative and she stood around with her hands down while rebounding. She did not move if the rebound did not come directly to her. I was sure she would be great player soon, but questioned the coach’s decision to start her with so much media attention on her. Looking back, even Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer did not start Jayne Appel in her first game as a freshman, but used her off the bench wisely. She made sure she was ready before inserting her (permanently) in the starting line up.

Since that first game Brittney has become more confident, has dunked in several games, and even twice in a game, the first women’s player to do so. Not only do defenses have to worry about her dunking and shooting at the top of her elevation, which is nearly unstoppable, but they have also have to worry about her blocking shots like nobody’s business. She makes opposing players alter their game when they drive in on her. She already holds the Big 12 single-season blocks record. Good for her, glad to see her coming along. ESPN’s Graham Hays agrees.

Although I did read one team beat Baylor by raining threes down on Griner and company, with Griner standing helplessly under the basket. If Stanford does play them in the NCAA tourney, I am sure Tara VanDeveer will take note of that.

However, something disturbing happened. On March 4th, Brittney Griner punched Texas Tech’s Jordan Barncastle in the face after the two tangled in the second half. Watch the hit (and Jordan’s Barncastle’s foul) here. Brittney broke Jordan’s nose with that swing.

In case you can’t get that video, Griner and Barncastle were battling for position near the lane before Barncastle spun around and sent Griner towards the ground. As a foul was called on Barncastle, Griner straightened up and took two steps toward her before throwing a roundhouse punch with her right hand. Make no mistake, Barncastle was playing dirty. However, it’s about on the same level we here at Stanford have seen teams do to Jayne Appel and Nneka Ogwumike. Neither has punched anybody.
After the hit, both teams pushed and shoved, players had to be separated and technicals were given. Officials stopped play to review the tape for about 10 minutes before assessing a flagrant and technical foul against Griner and ejecting her from the game. Baylor’s Morghan Medlock was also given a technical foul and the Tech bench also received a technical.  Baylor still won 69-60.

Brittney will be suspended for two games. She will miss the last regular season game and the next game she will miss happens to be the start of the Big 12 Tournament. She also issued a written apology.

Mechelle Voepel, also with ESPN weighs in with her opinion, one C and R highly value. Mechelle makes a very astute observation. In that same game where Brittney dunked twice, her team was beating Texas State 99-18 at the time. Brittney, being about 19 years old, got a little emotional. Mechelle wrote:
“At one point, she swatted away a shot, and then sort of hovered over and stared down at her opponent. It was brief but noticeable. And after one of her dunks, she ran back up the court yelling, shaking her head and tapping her chest.”

C and R never like “showboating, trash talking, taunting or bullying” of any kind, and it has no place in sports. Neither does punching.

Quoting Mechelle again:
“People can, and will, point out the physical contact that came before the punch. But players getting locked up, frustrated and overly forceful with each other happens quite often in basketball. Usually a foul is called on one side or both, and the official tells the participants to cool it…. However, taking it to the next level of ‘losing your cool’ -- throwing a punch -- is a place you just don't go. And if you do, you know you're in trouble.”

I agree. There is no place for throwing a punch in basketball. And if so, you get punished. Okay, I just paraphrased Mechelle, but I think you know where I stand.

See ya at Cal for an early 12:30 PM tip-off,

More Women's College Basketball, although it is mostly Stanford stuuf at the original C and R's Stanford Women's Basketball Blog

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