NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Brittney Griner has had no equal in her stellar career at Baylor. Now she’s part of a very select group.
The 6-foot-8 senior star earned The Associated Press player of the year award for the second straight season Saturday. Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw was selected coach of the year.
Griner is just the third player to earn the award in consecutive years, joining Seimone Augustus of LSU and Chamique Holdsclaw of Tennessee. Connecticut’s Maya Moore won it twice in a three-year span.
“Those names are pretty big; to have my name in there is an honor,” Griner said.
The three-time All-American got 37 votes from the 40-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike received two votes while Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins earned the other.
Griner helped hand McGraw’s team its only loss of the season back in early December. The Irish haven’t lost since, winning a school record 30 straight games. Not bad for a team that graduated three starters from last season.
“I think she’s one of the best players to play the game,” McGraw said. “She definitely has been a really dominating presence in every way.”
McGraw, who also won the award in 2001, received 24 votes. She did one of her best coaching jobs this season, getting the Irish back to the Final Four for a third straight season.
“She’s well deserving of the award this year with what we lost,” Diggins said. “To keep us winning like this that means a lot. She’s a great person and knows how to win and motivate her players to give their all for her. When you have someone who cares about you, you’ll do anything.”
McGraw was happy to share the award with her coaching staff and team who were in attendance for the ceremony and let out a loud cheer when she accepted it.
Last year’s winner, Griner’s coach Kim Mulkey, was second with seven votes. Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who guided the Golden Bears to their first Final Four, was third.
“It’s certainly an honor and truly a staff award,” McGraw said. “I got the best staff in women’s basketball and we definitely are a great team.”
McGraw, who also won the award in 2001, became the second coach to win it multiple times. She joined UConn’s Geno Auriemma — a seven time recipient.
Griner averaged 23.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.1 blocks this season. She shot 61 percent from the field and 71 percent from the free throw line. Griner’s father, godfather and brother were with her when she accepted the award. Griner said she will put it with the one she won last year.
She really appeared to be having a lot more fun on the court this season. Griner had 11 dunks, including three against Florida State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. She finished her career with 18; only six other women have ever dunked in a college game and the group had 15 combined.
Her college career ended sooner than expected, though, after Baylor lost to Louisville in the NCAA tournament regional semifinals.
Griner was the second all-time scorer in women’s NCAA history, with 3,283 points. She is the top shot blocker ever, shattering both the men’s and women’s college marks with 748.
Her play has drawn the praise of LeBron James.
“She’s dominating that sport, the women’s side of the game,” he said. “There’s really no one that can match her right now.”
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg