Brttney Griner holds up a Phoenix Mercury T-shirt as she poses next to the… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)
Brittney Griner, the All-American center for the Baylor women's basketball team, and an NBA tryout: It's the story that won't go away anytime soon. The media won't let it, not at the pinnacle of the college basketball season.
This became a story when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was talking last week about the NBA draft and told reporters he'd already given thought to using a second-round draft pick on the 6-foot-8, 200-pound Griner. Cuban even sent out the word via Twitter.
Griner says she's ready for a tryout, particularly after she hones her game in the WNBA this summer.
"I was like, 'Wow, Mark Cuban. He tweeted me?'" Griner said. "It definitely made me feel good, feel special. I tweeted him back, 'When is tryouts?' I can hold my own. I'll try too. I'm not going to back down from a challenge."
Now this story is getting more play during Final Four weekend, when Griner was selected the college player of the year again.
"When are tryouts?" Griner said Saturday afternoon in New Orleans, site of the women's Final Four. "The WNBA is where I'm at. That is where I'm going. After that, if I get a shot, why turn down something like that? That's big, even if you don't make it. Hey, at least you tried. Somebody pushed the envelope."
The problem for Griner, who is expected to be the first overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA draft April 15, is that she has the skills of a center but she's the size of an NBA small forward. If she had more muscle and mass, she might be a power forward, but she'd then be more of a combo forward, which is a kind way to say a little too big and slow for small forward and not quite big and strong enough to play power forward.
"They are strong, definitely bigger than me," Griner said of NBA players, particularly centers. "I would have to, as you say, man-up. But I've never backed down from a challenge, and I never will. If I get an elbow to the chest from one of those big guys, hey, at least I can say I was there and tried it."
When Griner was asked about playing against someone such as the Lakers' Dwight Howard, one of the most physically gifted NBA centers at 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds, she said she knew what would probably be in store for her.
"I would finally see what everybody feels like against me, a taste of my own medicine, I guess,'" Griner said. "But I'm not going to change my shot. If he blocks it, whatever."
Many women -- including Nancy Lieberman, the first woman to actually play in a men's pro league, and Ann Meyers Drysdale, who was given a tryout by the Indiana Pacers but didn't make training camp -- have advocated giving Griner and other top female players a chance to compete on the NBA level.
Two of the top coaches in the college women's game are decidedly against it -- Connecticut's Geno Auriemma, who came out earlier this week and said Cuban's genius would take a hit, and Duke's Joanne P. McAllie.
"Ha, ha, funny, funny, that was my reaction," McAllie said. "No way. I respect the strength and speed of those guys. There is simply no way on Earth that will happen. It's a silly thing. Let's be who we are. Let's be really good at who we are. And your validation does come through Mark Cuban's offer. I appreciate Mark Cuban watching the game but let's not forget who we are."
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