Reliable sources have informed Full Court that the Griner family has attributed her decision to forgo the game to the Nimitz High School administration's refusal to grant Griner the time away from school to play in the game. Nimitz High administration and coaching staff could not be reached for comment. Griner is still scheduled to attend the WBCA All-American game, sponsored by Nike, on April 4 in St. Louis, Missouri, during the Final Four of the NCAA Division-I Women's Basketball National Championship Tournament.
This is the second incident this high school season where Griner, whom many have dubbed “the future of the game,” will not appear to play at a scheduled game as the result of her school administration. Earlier in the year Nimitz pulled out of the Phoenix Classic less then 48 hours before their scheduled game time. The reason for this allegedly was that Griner would not be able to play; therefore, the school administration was not going to allow the team to go without her.
Griner missed last year's USA Basketball trials as well, due to an unspecified illness of her mother.
Griner's media consultant Yolande Eylezine who writes for the Black Athlete Sports Network refused to comment on the situation regarding Griner and the McDonald's All-American game when contacted by Full Court. While Griner, at 6'8'', is larger than life, she is the first prep player to have a media consultant.
Why does a high school senior need a media consultant? More important, should she? And does the excessive media attention (some might say obsession) paid to Griner have something to do with the decision to stay home while the rest of the nation’s honorees take to the court on April 1?
Griner, who fouled out in the third-quarter of Nimitz’s victory against rival prep superstar Kelsey Bone and Dulles on Friday night, has felt the pressure of all of women's basketball on her out-sized shoulders in the past two years. Griner's rise from a six-foot tall, ninth-grade junior varsity player to a YouTube® dunking sensation and nationwide household name among fans of the game has been unparalleled in the game of women's basketball. The cover girl of certain prep basketball media outlets, Griner has been featured in dozens of articles across the country. Her commitment to continue to her basketball career at Baylor brought with it a veritable parade of other top athletes hoping to play with Griner, pushing the Bears to the top of this year’s women’s recruiting classes.
|Portent of things to come? Griner and Chandler, both now Baylor commits, hoist Bears' coach Kim Mulkey to the nets at last summer's Baylor Elite Camp.|
Yet, with this exponential rise in exposure has come an enormous amount of media pressure and scrutiny of the nation's top prep player. Griner’s no-show at one of the nation’s two top prep hoops honors comes less then a year after the top player in the Class of 2008, Elena Delle Donne, spent less than a month at the University of Connecticut before returning home to attend the University of Delaware and give up the sport of basketball. (Reportedly, Delle Donne has since given up on Delaware and the sport of volleyball as well.)
While everyone dreams of being Number One, the wave of media attention focused on those singled out at an early age for their exceptional—perhaps game-transforming--talents obviously has taken its toll on these two players. There is a difference between sports journalism—providing the public with legitimate information on the skills, abilities, interests and fates of a broad spectrum of players and teams—and sensationalism, which we at Full Court would define to include the exploitation of an individual player for personal or corporate gain.
Mike Flynn, the director of the Blue Star Basketball Report, reminded sports journalists of our collective responsibilities: "It is important to understand the scrutiny and spotlight that comes when you are placing young athletes on that top platform. Sometimes that pressure overwhelms and its hard for those responsible for this monstrous elevation to remember that whomever they declare as the 'voice' of the game, that 'voice' is ready to handle the constant examination of the athlete's personal and athletic life."
Excessive publicity, unrealistic expectations, and intense pressure ultimately caused Elena Delle Donne to take two breaks from playing basketball and eventually caused her to quit. One can only speculate about Griner's future in the public eye, about how the next "big thing" in 2010 will handle the spotlight, and about how that “voice” continues to cover women's basketball. In Full Court's opinion, it is pretty clear that that voice needs to change.