Posted by: kevinfortruth | February 22, 2013

Brittney Griner might have two sides but her ugly side showed up in Hartford this last Monday

Undoubtedly, Brittney Griner is the best center in women’s college basketball.  Some say she is the best overall women’s basketball player – even when compared to WNBA payers, but I disagree with that assessment.

One reason I disagree is that Baylor suffered their only loss to Stanford because Baylor’s point guard, Odyssey Sims, only played four minutes due to a hamstring injury.  Brittney Griner played 39 minutes in that game but her presence could not secure the victory for Baylor.

I personally believe Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame is probably the best player in women’s college basketball now – not only because of her individual statistics but also because of her overall value to her team and how she mentors her teammates.   

Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford is another player I believe is a better overall player than Brittney Griner is.  In addition, there is a small handful of players who are great in their own right, but none of them, including UCONN’s Kalena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stephanie Dolson can match up to Brittney’s overall play – both offensively and defensively. 

Elena Delle Donne, a 6’5” center for the University of Delaware, who formerly accepted a scholarship with UCONN, is a great player who can do it all – but her recurring problems with Lyme disease prevent her from having consistently outstanding performances throughout the year.  Lyme disease might also prevent her from having a successful career in the WNBA.

Ted Williams, the former Boston Red Sox great was said to have had extraordinary eyesight – he was rumored to have 20/10 vision and some said he could see the stitches on the baseball as it approached home plate and as a result, he could quickly determine the expected path of the ball and respond with his bat accordingly. 

The bottom line is that with his incredible vision he was able to become one of the greatest hitters in baseball.  It surely was not his fault that his vision worked to his advantage.  I never heard or read of anyone saying that his eyesight gave him an unfair advantage as a hitter.

The same goes for Brittney Griner – she is 6’8” and that works to her advantage – but the bottom line is that Brittney has honed her skills to take advantage of her height.  When she started at Baylor, she was tall but she was nowhere near the player she is today.  Some criticize Griner for being so tall, but again, it is not her fault. 

To prove this point, there are other young women in NCAA Division I basketball who are either 6’6” or 6’7” yet do not dominate their conferences or the teams they play against.

In addition to being tall, Brittney has an incredible wingspan – I believe from tip to tip, her arms span 88” left to right and her vertical reach is 9’2”, and because of those stats, dunking should be, and is, a relatively easy task for her.  As a matter of fact, when I see her dunk, I say to myself, “Big deal – anyone her height should be dunking twice a game – every single game.”

Enough about the good stuff about Griner.  When she was a freshman at Baylor, she was in a very physical game with Texas Tech.  A much smaller player for Tech, Jordan Barncastle was doing her best to challenge every move Griner made.

I did not see the entire game – I only saw several clips surrounding the few seconds leading up to the altercation between the two athletes.  From what I saw at the time, Barncastle pushed Griner away and Griner responded by punching Barncastle in the face.  In my estimation, Barncastle’s push was deserving of a foul – I am not sure it rose to the level of a flagrant foul.  Griner’s response was not a slap, it was a roundhouse and Griner did not appear to hold anything back – proven by the fact that Barncastle’s nose was broken by the punch and she suffered significant bleeding.  Griner’s action was quite flagrant and the officials responded in kind by slapping Griner with a technical and ejecting her from the game.

Initially, I felt bad for Griner – thinking that the officials lost control of the game – that they could have stepped in a few minutes earlier and maybe could have slapped both players with technical fouls in a way to calm the situation before it escalated to the punch that was seen around the world.

In 2012, Baylor was playing Tennessee in an Elite Eight game and near the end of the game there was a scuffle on the court between a Baylor player and a Tennessee player.  Griner was on the bench at the time, but when the altercation broke out, Griner and two other Baylor players jumped up from the bench and went onto the court.  Griner said she went out there in an effort to settle things down.  No matter her intention, she and her teammates should not have left the bench.  As a result, she and her two teammates were ejected from the game.  Proper rules were applied and technical fouls were assessed but nothing more than ejection happened to the three Baylor players who left the bench.

It was at that moment I came to the opinion that Griner had a problem with temper and a lack of respect for authority and rules of the game.  Griner was a junior at the time and should have had enough common sense to leave everything to the officials and the respective coaching staffs.

For the past three years since Griner punched Barncastle, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey has repeatedly expressed praises for Griner.  In April of 2012, Coach Mulkey was quoted as saying this about Griner, “This child is as precious as they come when it comes to being a good person, a sweet kid, a coachable?? [sic] one of the greatest players I’ve ever coached, probably the greatest, and the easiest to coach. I love going to work and seeing Brittney Griner’s face. She just makes me happy.”

Over the past month or so, Kim Mulkey has been quoted as saying things like, “She was aggressive” or “She became more aggressive.”  I wonder if Griner is taking that as a cue for her to increase her aggressiveness in an effort to insure that Baylor and Mulkey get another national championship – no matter the consequences – no matter who is injured.

Many viewers, including commentators, of the Monday night game between UCONN and Baylor that took place in Hartford have said that the turning point in the game was the first time Griner grabbed and threw Dolson to the ground.  The officials charged Griner with a technical, Dolson got two free throws, and UCONN retained possession of the ball.

I sure was not in the Baylor locker room at halftime but my guess is that Coach Mulkey told Griner to get more aggressive with Dolson and Griner was more than ready to oblige her coach.

The real turning point in the game, in my estimation, was when Griner did it again – yes, she grabbed Dolson and spun her around and threw her to the ground again.  Unfortunately, no technical was called this time and I believe the reason was that Griner, because of a potential second technical, would have been ejected from the game – and probably would have affected the game’s outcome.  The bad thing about the second “world wide wrestling type throw down” is that by not calling a foul on Griner, the refs were giving her a license to continue her aggressiveness.

If anyone looks at the second throw down they will see an official observing the “no-foul” and shaking her head left and right as to say, “Oh, no, not again.”  The ref knew if she acted on the play and called the second “T” that Griner would have had to leave the game.

Barncastle, who Griner punched in her freshman year, was a white athlete and I did not think anything of it until this past Monday night.  Dolson is also a white athlete and I am beginning to wonder if Griner only takes out her frustrations on white athletes who challenge her.  In previous meetings, Dolson did not present that much of a challenge to Griner, but Dolson has worked hard to get into shape and Dolson proved to be a formidable opponent this time.  Geno mentioned that he thought about giving Dolson a break in the game and if so, he might have replaced her with Heather Buck, another white player.  If he did that, would Buck have been thrown down a few times – possibly because she is a white athlete as well?  One can only wonder.

Baylor is basically an all black basketball team – except for the one white player on the team who just happens to be coach Mulkey’s daughter.  The four Baylor recruits for next year are all black as well as the one commit for the following year.  Could the lack of diversity on the Baylor’s women’s basketball team be part of the issue surrounding the punch to Barncastle and the Dolson throw downs?

Because Coach Mulkey has not said anything publically about the two throw downs, in my estimation she condones Griner’s actions – actions that if they continue will result in serious injuries to an opponent or two down the road.  Dolson is very fortunate that she did not suffer broken bones because of the two throw downs.  In my estimation, Coach Mulkey is either directly or indirectly encouraging her team to play “street ball” or more crudely stated, “ghetto ball”, where the rules are, “no blood, no foul.”

I grew up in a very poor neighborhood in Springfield, MA and I played basketball in parks, school yards and a nearby Boy’s Club and the presence of blood frequently decided whether a foul was called.   

The official who witnessed the second throw down of Dolson by Griner was derelict because she chose to not call an obvious technical against Griner. The NCAA should suspend the official in question for a period to be determined.  To be sure, if Dolson was the one who initiated the throw down of an opposing player, I would also be supportive of a technical foul being called – even if it meant an ejection.  The game was of little importance and Griner should have been ejected after the second throw down.  A potential loss for Baylor or UCONN would not have affected conference standings or tournament selections.  The only possible effect that a Baylor loss might have had is with the overall seeding to the NCAA Tournament.

My educated guess is that the official did not want the outcome of the game determined by a second technical called on Griner that would have resulted in her being ejected from the game.  In my estimation, the second knockdown, or throw down, depending on one’s interpretation, was much worse than the first and by not calling a foul the ref was indirectly telling Griner that it was okay for her to commit a serious infraction without consequences.

Griner is tall enough and has arms that extend wide enough to allow her to shoot the ball from any reasonable distance from the basket with a high completion percentage.  The reason she makes so many of her shots is that she battles defenders into backing up so her shots are easier.  If she continues to force herself on defenders who position themselves directly behind her she should be penalized by the ref for a charge.

There is no need for Griner to physically force back defenders continuously so she can get as close as possible to the basket before taking the shot.  I believe defenders should be able to hold their ground and she should not be able to forcibly keep hitting into them to force them into surrendering their position.   

Defenders should be able to stand firmly in place behind her, holding their ground and if she does not like that, she needs to dribble around them and work for a better shot.

One solution to the constant force being applied by offensive players against defensive players simply trying to stand their ground is to draw another larger (and wider) half circle about 5 foot out from the existing smaller half circle.  Refs could use that reference point to let offensive players know that if they continually hit and bump defenders in a way to force them into yielding their established position that a personal foul will be assessed against the offensive player and if the hitting and bumping is flagrant in nature, a technical foul will be assessed against the offensive player – regardless of height or wingspan.


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