COLUMN: Griffin deserving of Player of the Year
Michelle Gray, The Oklahoma Daily
Regardless of whether or not you picked OU to make it to the Final Four this weekend in Detroit, you knew at least one Sooner was going to be there no matter what happened in the tournament.
The announcement over the weekend that Griffin was named this season’s Naismith Player of the Year simply made official what reporters and pundits had been writing and saying for the past few months.
What started out at the beginning of the year sounding like an intriguing race among a select few of the nation’s elite players quickly changed tunes and turned into a one-act play.
The Blake Griffin Show. Guess who was headlining.
With UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough, last year’s recipient of the award, entering his senior year this season, the wide-eyed kid known as “Psycho T” was supposed to be Griffin’s main challenger.
Stephen Curry of Davidson, which played the part of Cinderella in its run to the Elite Eight of last year’s tourney, and Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair, who emerged as a candidate a few months into the season, were also in place to compete for the sport’s highest honor.
But the double-doubles kept on popping up in the box scores, and the Sooners kept on winning, and by mid-January, the title, “Presumptive Player of the Year,” preceded any referral to Griffin.
Now he’s got the hardware to prove it.
And as much fun as it was this year to watch the stellar sophomore throw down all those rim-rattling dunks, and dominate the boards like no collegiate player has since Tim Duncan in 1996-97 at Wake Forest, his impact off the court was just as significant.
After all, what do you expect from a 6-10, 251-pound behemoth who, after every one of the many cheap shots thrown his direction this season, displayed the tranquility of Gandhi?
Following Griffin’s break-out freshman year, when he reminded the country that OU still had a basketball program, the Oklahoma City-native became a major reason that prized-recruit Willie Warren chose OU.
Also, if you’re in a grocery store soon, you may want to pick up a “Thank You” card for Griffin to show your gratitude for the highly-rated recruiting class expected to arrive in Norman this summer.
As much as head coach Jeff Capel and his staff — the people who are actually in charge of the recruiting process — deserve credit for the influx of talented, high-school seniors, the fact that Griffin was a SportsCenter regular couldn’t have hurt.
His awe-inspiring play during games, as well as his polite, humble attitude on and off the court — from my perch on press row, he could regularly be seen saying “thank you” to the ball boy each time he or she wiped the floor — made him the perfect choice for this year’s award.
Now, with OU’s season officially over, the conversation moves to Griffin’s future.
Just as people have been certain he was going to win Player of the Year honors for months now, many also have been saying the sophomore will forego his final two seasons of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft.
If he decides to go, no one will blame him. He’s going out on top and Sooner nation won’t soon (or ever) forget him.
But if he decides to stick around…
Man, that’s a scary thought.
Blake’s season at glance
Nov. 11 VS Davidson: In a matchup against Stephen Curry, Griffin put up 25 points and 21 rebounds in OU’s first big test of the season.
Feb. 14 VS Texas Tech: Griffin scored 40 points and brought down 23 rebounds and Texas Tech head coach Pat Knight called him “The Terminator.”
Feb. 21 at Texas: Griffin suffered a concussion after multiple blows to the head en route to the Sooners’ first Big 12 loss.
Feb. 28 at Texas Tech: In his first game back from a concussion, Griffin jumped over the scorer’s table, proving that his relentless play would not be hindered by a previous injury.
March 19 against Morgan State: Morgan State forward Ameer Ali flipped Griffin to the hardwood, but he did not retaliate while helping the Sooners advance to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.
March 29 against North Carolina: Despite a 72-60 loss in what could be Griffin’s final game as a Sooner, he outperformed 2008 Player of the Year forward Tyler Hansbrough with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
Sophomore forward Blake Griffin has drawn a lot of praise this season. Here’s a look at what some people had to say about the super sophomore.
They said it ...
» “Have you ever seen The Terminator? Our players were like Sarah Conner and it didn’t matter what we did or who we put on him, he was going to kill us slowly.”
— Texas Tech head coach Pat Knight
» “He is as good in and around the basket as anyone I have ever seen.”
— Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim
» “I had the opportunity to work with him at the Nike Skills Academy and he is one of the toughest and hardest-working kids I have been around”
» “The kid is just a winner. If you locked all of the college basketball players in the country in a room and only one could battle his way out, it would be Blake Griffin coming out of that room.”
— ESPN Analyst Jay Bilas
» “Tyler Hansbrough is a very good player with a place for him on the next level ... But Blake Griffin is just special. They shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence.”
— ESPN Analyst Stephen A. Smith
» “Please don’t make this to be a comparison -- [but] he is LeBron James-like. He’s got such a package of strength, explosiveness, touch, power. You know, it’s hard to match that. In person when you’re sitting on that bench, it even looks more awesome than it does when I’m watching it on TV.”
— North Carolina head coach Roy Williams
Quotes compiled by Daniel Martin/The Daily
-Eric Dama is a journalism junior.