After suspension for punch, Griner glad to be back
On the dais after the game, she seemed nervous.
Brittney Griner, Baylor's dunking YouTube sensation, came off her two-game suspension to score 13 points and block 10 shots in a 59-54 Big 12 tournament loss to 12th-ranked Oklahoma on Friday night. Afterward she met with the media for the first time since throwing that punch March 3.
"I missed being out there with my team," she said. "It really felt good to be back and playing with everybody."
Baylor officials had kept Griner from reporters since she broke the nose of Texas Tech's Jordan Barncastle on March 3.
Griner spoke in measured words, saying she treated Friday's game no different than any other and that she felt back in her groove after she blocked her first shot.
When asked what she learned from the punching incident, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey interrupted before Griner could answer.
"She learned she misses her team. She misses playing the game," Mulkey said sternly, with a nodding Griner sitting to her left.
There were a smattering of boos when Griner was introduced before the game. She said she didn't hear them.
"All I heard were cheers," she said.
The boos didn't go unnoticed by Mulkey.
"I was disappointed. That's a teenager who's made a mistake, and she's good for the women's game," Mulkey said. "She's human."
The 19-year-old Griner is one of the most talked-about women's college players in years. The Houston native was a wonder of the Web in high school with her dunks. Earlier this season she became only the second player to dunk more than once in a women's college game during a 99-18 rout of Texas State. Candace Parker of Tennessee was the first.
She punched Barncastle in the face after the two players tangled in the second half of Baylor's game in Lubbock, Texas. The two were battling for position near the lane before Barncastle spun around and sent Griner lunging toward the baseline. As a foul was called on Barncastle, Griner straightened up and took two steps toward her before throwing a punch with her right hand.
Griner apologized in a written statement the day after the incident.
"There's no value in that in women's basketball. It was horrible. It was horrendous. It wasn't anything we are proud of. It isn't anything Brittney is proud of," Mulkey said.
Mulkey said people shouldn't judge Griner based on one incident.
"She is the sweetest child in a 6-8 body," Mulkey said. "I've never been around a more gentle giant than Brittney Griner.
"All I ask is that you judge Brittney Griner before the incident, and you judge her after the incident. ... Don't judge kids. Let them clean up their mess with help from adults, and if they don't clean it up, then they eliminate themselves."