Brittney Griner wins three awards
DENVER -- The trophy cases at Baylor might need to be expanded. Monday, Baylor center Brittney Griner picked up a trio of honors: the Wade Trophy, the Naismith Trophy and the WBCA defensive player of the year award.
Griner previously won another national player of the year honor -- from The Associated Press -- before adding the Wade and Naismith trophies. The Wade is the oldest of the awards, dating back to 1978.
Also honored Monday was Baylor's Kim Mulkey, who was named the WBCA coach of the year. The Lady Bears (39-0) play Notre Dame for the national championship Tuesday.
Griner, a junior who has emphatically stated she will return to Baylor for her senior season although technically she's eligible for the WNBA draft, averages 23.2 points and 9.4 rebounds and has 201 blocked shots.
Monday when meeting with the media in preparation for the NCAA title game, Griner was asked about her friendship with another major-award winner at Baylor: quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griner's Wade Trophy is the women's basketball equivalent of Griffin's Heisman Trophy.
"I admire Robert a lot," Griner said of Griffin, who is here at the Women's Final Four rooting on Baylor. "I love the way he speaks in his interviews and how he carries himself on and off the field. He's a great ambassador for Baylor football and football in general.
"We're friends, but we're really competitive with each other. Yesterday, he said to me, 'You know I had this hairdo first, right?' And I laughed and did the little flip (with her hair) and said, 'See, that's natural.' We're trying to get a little event going at Baylor, a little dunk contest. Definitely, he can dunk. I wouldn't say better than me, but ... I'll give him credit: He can throw. I couldn't touch him on the football field. But on the basketball court, that's me."
Griner said all this with good humor, which she has displayed a lot of during this visit to the Final Four. She was quieter in 2010 when she came to this event as a freshman in San Antonio, but she has grown up a lot since then.
The multiple honors for Griner show the diversity of her game. The area she is most proud of is her defense, so that award is especially meaningful. Mulkey said in all her years of international play and coaching, she has never seen a player do the full range of things defensively that Griner does.
"There have been players before her who can dunk, players that block shots," Mulkey said. "But there's never been a player before her that intimidates you on the defensive end of the floor. She has a presence in the paint like none other."
Asked what she hopes Griner will improve most for next season, Mulkey said, "I always want Brittney to be a little more aggressive with being vocal. I would love to see her lead more vocally than she does.
"I also think her offensive rebounding ... if she could get in there and really crash the offensive boards more than she does, I think that's an area of her game that could really be scary."