Taryn Griffey shoots for senior moment

Joe Faraoni

Taryn Griffey averaged 16 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists as a sophomore before missing her junior season with a knee injury.

Sitting out an entire year with a serious knee injury can be traumatic for any athlete, especially someone whose high school career is just taking off.

Luckily for Taryn Griffey, she had someone she could turn to for some sage advice.

"My dad said that if you play sports, you are going to get hurt," said Griffey, whose father is former baseball star Ken Griffey Jr. "He said that once I get back, I have to play as if nothing bad had ever happened."

The 5-foot-7 guard from Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.), who will be a senior in the fall and gave a verbal commitment to Arizona last month, is set to be cleared this week and could return to AAU play in July.

Her close friend and teammate has no doubt Griffey will follow her father's advice.

"Since she tore her ACL, she never got down on herself," said Jade Cheek, a 5-8 wing who also will be a senior at Dr. Phillips. "She never had a bad attitude. I know that when she comes back to the team, she is going to work hard."

Griffey's stock was rising rapidly when those dreaded three letters -- ACL -- invaded her world last October. A collision with another player at an open-gym workout sent her to surgery and months of grueling rehabilitation.

"It was rough for her sitting on the sidelines," Dr. Phillips coach Anthony Jones said. "But I think she learned a lot.

"She came to our games and was able to sit on the bench and watch and understand what the coaching staff is always yelling about. She was able to see from our eyes how plays develop and the importance of timing."

Griffey likely would use a lot of words to describe the season -- starting with disappointment and difficulty, but she does recognize the silver lining. 

"It was also fun," she said. "I paid attention."

Part of the fun was watching Dr. Phillips destroy the competition. The Panthers finished 31-3, winning their third straight state title and posting an unblemished record (26-0) against Florida teams.

After winning state, the Panthers won the National High School Invitational in Maryland, a four-team tournament for the nation's elite.

While all of that was going on, Griffey -- the No. 45 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2014 class -- was getting scholarship offers from some of the top basketball programs in the nation.

In mid-May, she picked Arizona, where her brother, Trey, will be a redshirt freshman wide receiver.

Courtesy David Jester

Taryn Griffey has some unfinished business at Dr. Phillips before joining her brother at Arizona.

Some scouts were surprised she chose a team that finished last season with a 12-18 record, including 13 losses in its final 14 games. The Wildcats have very little tradition in the sport and haven't been in the NCAA tournament since 2004-05.

So why did she choose Arizona?

"Of course, my brother is there, and I love the atmosphere and the academics," said Griffey, who has a 3.6 GPA and is interested in studying global business. "Playing basketball is a bonus."

But before she can go after college accomplishments, she is determined to lead Dr. Phillips to its fourth straight state title.

The Panthers will be without three standouts, who graduated: Sydnei McCaskill, who replaced Griffey at point guard and signed with Georgia; guard Hannah Schaible (George Washington); and post player Stephanie Ratliff (Towson).

"Taryn is so fast and athletic," Jones said. "It shows in every part of her game, even her rebounding. She is so quick in crashing the boards that her opponent will turn to box her out, and it's too late."

Griffey said she has worked for months on improving her left hand, and she plans on being better than ever when she finally hits the court. That's a lofty goal considering she was named Florida's Class 8A Player of the Year as a sophomore, when she averaged 16 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, and set a school record with 81 3-pointers, including nine in one game.

"It's our senior year," Griffey said, "and we want to go out on top."

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