The only ring she had on was the one signifying the Lady Bears’ national championship last year, going undefeated in the NCAA’s first 40-win season.
“Brittney Griner, after winning the national championship last year, should have erased any doubt in people’s minds as the greatest to ever play the game,” coach Kim Mulkey said.
It’s hard to believe that Griner was like any other freshman when she arrived, nervous and unsure what to expect. The Lady Bears went 27-10 her first season, and made it to the NCAA Final Four before a national semifinal loss to Connecticut. They are 106-4 since.
There was also that punch late in her freshman season after tangling under the basket with a Texas Tech player. After being slung back and lunging toward the baseline, Griner stopped, took two steps and delivered a roundabout right to Jordan Barncastle’s face.
Like so many of Griner’s dunks, the video of that punch went viral. She got an automatic one-game NCAA suspension, and Mulkey added a second. It’s something Griner still regrets happened.
But Griner is constantly pushed and shoved during games with opposing teams often putting two, three and sometimes even more defenders on her.
As fierce as Griner can be during games, including occasional scowls and chest pounding, she is fun-loving and often goofy off the court.
After her 50-point game on senior night, Griner pedaled around the court on a tricycle used for student races during timeouts of Baylor games. She rides an elongated skateboard on campus, where other students find out she’s just another college kid.
“She’s a great person. She talks to everybody. She’s always laughing and joking around,” said Baylor men’s point guard Pierre Jackson, the Big 12’s leading scorer. “She just makes everybody smile.”
Jackson was a junior college transfer and admittedly “kind of star-struck” by her when he first got to Baylor two years ago. She introduced herself to Jackson to break the ice.
There are less than three weeks left in her college career that Griner realizes “just went so quick.” She will leave an indelible mark on the women’s game, even though she cringes when asked about her impact on the game.
“I just feel like I’m adding on,” she said. “I guess you can say I’m changing the defensive end … just because I’m so big and I move. I’m not stationary.
“I want people to look back and be like, ‘Dang, I remember when I played her back in college, she was a game-changer on the defensive end,” Griner added. “I want that to be my mark on the defensive end.”
Well, that’s a slam dunk.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report from Miami.