Otherwise, she doesn't demonstrate much in the way of impulse control. That is, if she sees a shot, she takes it. She sees a loose ball, she grabs it. She senses a weak offering from an opponent, she swats it. "Ooh, the blocks," she says, her smile at full strength. "I like those more than dunks. Blocks are the ultimate. Dunks are maybe more hype."
She is similarly unmoved by all the breathless sui generis talk. "Everyone tells me I'm changing the game, I'm a pioneer and all this. But, nah, I'm just adding on. Maybe I'm doing something different someone before me couldn't do. But I'm pretty sure that in the future there will be a post player who can do things I can't do."
In truth, Griner is lucky simply to be playing. After finishing her classes last spring, she woke before dawn on Mother's Day to pack up her stuff, load her puppy into the front seat of her Mazda SUV and head home to Houston. On a state road outside Marlin, Texas, she fell asleep at the wheel. The vehicle crossed the median, spun around and crashed into two road signs, eventually landing in a ditch. The truck was battered beyond recognition, with a hole in the roof. Griner, miraculously, was unharmed, save some soreness, as was her puppy. What cosmic lessons did she learn from a near-death experience? "I don't know, really," she says. "Maybe, drive safer."
That won't stop her from attacking life though. Griner is a free spirit, known to ride a Razor scooter around campus and paint her body in school colors for Bears football games. On her first day at Baylor she introduced herself to everyone in her classes. When her team clinched the Big 12 regular-season title on March 2, it was Griner who led the impromptu celebration, dancing wildly before diving headfirst into piles of confetti at courtside. On the rare occasion she needs solitude, Griner jumps into a kayak and paddles in the Brazos River, which runs behind the campus. "I swear," says redshirt sophomore forward Destiny Williams, who is third on the team in scoring with 8.9 points, "that girl is never not on."
Nor is Griner self-conscious about towering above 99.4% of all other Americans and all but a handful of women. "I love being tall," she says flatly. "People stare, but it never got to me. I'd see people looking and I'd smile back. You're thinking, Wow, I'm really tall? I'm thinking, Wow, you're really short. I don't even notice now," she says. "The only thing that sucks is I can't have that little sports car."
Griner's runningmate not only fits into a sports car but plays like one—driving expertly, handling smoothly and betraying deceptive power. Freshman Odyssey Sims is an outside presence to complement Griner's inside threat. Arguably the nation's best point guard, Sims, 18, runs the offense with poise that belies her age, and can also score prolifically, including a 37-point game in Baylor's one-point win at Oklahoma. For the season she's averaging 13.3. "Sometimes teams [collapse on] Brittney, which leaves me open to knock down the shot," says Sims. "Other times I can drive inside, create, draw the defense and then get the ball to her."
For a player named Odyssey, Sims's journey to Waco was remarkably simple and direct. She grew up barely 100 miles up Interstate 35 in Irving, Texas, and was a middle school student in 2005, when Baylor won the NCAA title. Sims attended a summer basketball camp at Baylor, and that was pretty much all the convincing she needed. Precisely the kind of player who once would have set her sights on Storrs or Knoxville, Sims committed verbally to Baylor before her sophomore year of high school and "never really looked hard anywhere else."
Sims has two older brothers, Oscar and Onaye, and she's unsure how she got her name. But her mom, Pamela Thompson, lends an assist. "I wanted an O name," says Thompson, "and I was into astrology at the time so I named her after that show Space Odyssey," meaning the 1968 Kubrick film. O-kay. For good measure, Sims wears number 0. And yet for all the ambient O, Sims plays mean D, pressuring the ball ruthlessly and gambling on steals—an activity considerably less risky when a 6'8" shot-blocking fiend is positioned behind you. (Baylor has yet to allow a team to shoot above 50% from the field this season.)
It falls on Mulkey to alchemize the young talent she's amassed. A star point guard at Louisiana Tech in the 1980s, Mulkey won two national titles as a player (her teams went a combined 130--6) and another one as Louisiana Tech assistant coach. She was in line to succeed her mentor, Leon Barmore, but when administrative politics threatened to derail that plan, she bolted for Baylor.
She arrived in 2000 and quickly won over town and gown with her straight-shooting style. "Coach Kim is adored in the community," says Kenneth Starr—he of the famed eponymous report—Baylor's current president. Splitting the difference between Tennessee's solemnly intense Pat Summitt and UConn's gregarious Geno Auriemma, Mulkey is driven and ambitious but also quick with a one-liner.