The Devil's Dish

2014 Cronkite High School Summer Journalism Institute

Reaching High

Britney Griner goes up for a layup during the Phoenix Mercury practice on June 17. Griner is averaging 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this season

Britney Griner goes up for a layup during the Phoenix Mercury practice on June 17. Griner is averaging 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this seasona

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has high hopes for both herself and her team as the 2014 WNBA season continues

By Thomas Oide

Any fan of women’s basketball knows exactly who former Baylor star and Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner is.

She towers over everybody on the court as she stands 6-8. Her 7-3 wingspan allows her to effortlessly maneuver herself around the paint to block shots. She wears size 17 shoes. She has hands bigger than Lebron James’.  She has her signature dreadlocks tied behind her head.

And of course, she can dunk.

But Griner and her height is no fad; in just a year (experts touted her as the best player in the 2013 WNBA draft), Griner has risen to the top of her game, and wants to meet the sky-high expectations set for her before the 2013 draft.

“[My expectations] haven’t really changed too much, still want to win a championship, that’s our goal,” Griner said. “Coming out of Baylor, I definitely had super high expectations of myself and the first year was a little rocky. Got that out of the way–got that year out of the way–this year I’m more comfortable.”

Griner said before the season head coach Sandy Brondello challenged her to post a double-double every game this season. Although Griner hasn’t met that expectation every single game this season, her season averages so far speak for themselves.

The former Baylor superstar averages 15.4 points per game and 8.1 boards per game in the 2014 season. On top of that, Griner has improved in almost every stat category from last season; from field goal percentage to blocks per game. Griner attributes her improvement to playing for a team in the Chinese league and her individual work off the court.

“I went overseas to China and worked on my game a lot; played over there for about four, five months,” Griner said. “When I got back, I really worked on my game, trying to get back to how I was really dominant in college. That’s where I’m going right now.”

Most basketball fans know Griner for her signature emphatic blocks. In fact, she has the NCAA Division I record for blocks in a career with 748. But in the WNBA, Griner learned that she can’t always go into the air to block a shot.

“Learning when to jump,” Griner said, when asked about her biggest adjustment to the WNBA. “A lot of times they’ll try and get you off the floor, so I need to be a little more patient when I’m getting off my block so I’m not leaving a player open when I go to block a shot.”

Griner led the Baylor Bears to an undefeated 40-0 record in the 2011-2012 season, and established herself as the best player in women’s college basketball. However in the WNBA, Griner has to compete with stars who are just as talented as her, like 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne, and perennial WNBA star Candace Parker.

“You want to go up against players that make you better,” Griner said. “You want to go up against better players, more skillful players. It definitely helped me elevate my game; I have to bring it every night. There’s no easy nights where you can go in like, ‘Ok I know it’s going to be a breeze.’”

Notes: Off the court, Griner is an avid gamer. She favors the PlayStation 4 over the Xbox One, and says that her favorite game is “Killzone.” However, she doesn’t like playing games like NBA Live or NBA 2K14, as she said, “I get enough basketball right now.”

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