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Houston rocket

Nimitz 6-6 sophomore Brittney Griner is taking off

Posted: Tuesday January 16, 2007 2:33PM; Updated: Wednesday January 17, 2007 9:40AM
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Brittney Griner has grown six inches since her freshman year and has already dunked twice in games.
Brittney Griner has grown six inches since her freshman year and has already dunked twice in games.
Photo Courtesy of Debbie Jackson

Each week SI.com will select the athlete who displays excellence on and off the field as the Primetime Performer.

Brittney Griner, 6-foot-6, Soph., Nimitz (Houston)

Excuse 15-year-old sophomore Brittney Griner, for acting her age and not her shoe size.

Griner, who won't celebrate her 16th birthday until April, wears a size 16 men's sneaker and has exploded on the high school basketball scene over the last year and a half. And she's loving every minute of it.

A newcomer to the game last year, Griner played her first year of organized basketball as a 6-foot freshman, first as a member of the jayvee squad, and then working her way onto the varsity, where she led the team with 13 points per game and earned first-team all-district honors.

Since then she has grown six inches, dunked in a game and begun to draw the attention of college recruiters from national powers, including Texas, Texas A&M, LSU, Tennessee, Miami, Texas Tech, Kansas, Baylor and Wake Forest.

"She did a very good job considering her experience," Nimitz coach Debbie Jackson says. "Quite often she got into foul trouble because of bad decisions. She really worked hard in the summer. She plays smarter now and has improved her footwork."

Griner, whose nickname is "Big Foot", knows how to use her size, already posting seven triple-doubles for Nimitz (20-5) this season. Her latest triple-double came last week when she had 32 points, 16 rebounds and 13 blocks as the Cougars defeated Houston Memorial, 49-38.

Her efforts are particularly surprising because three of the Cougars' starters have been sidelined by injuries and she constantly is double-and triple-teamed.

"Every game they always run zone on me," Griner says. "One person's in front of me and one behind me. At first I was frustrated, but I've learned to deal with it. It doesn't bother me anymore."

Through 25 games, Griner is averaging 23 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.1 blocks. She is shooting 65 percent from the field but just 49.6 percent from the free throw line.

"She's an ideal player," Jackson says. "She has a 70-inch wing span from finger tip to finger tip and she jumps. She always works hard and challenges herself. She is very agile. What's really amazing is that when she is double- and triple-teamed, she stays very mentally calm and still is productive. She is a very confident young lady -- a real joy to coach."

Last summer, while playing for the AAU Houston Hotshots, Griner dunked for the first time, and last month she threw one down. "The whole crowd just jumped up and was screaming," Griner says.

Griner, who has a 3.2 GPA, says math and chemistry are her favorite subjects and that she would like to be a crime scene investigator some day. But for now she is following the footsteps of her favorite player, Tennessee star Candace Parker.

"She plays hard and is a good team player, too," Griner says. "And she can dunk."