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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's basketball

Column: Guards, not Griner, will be first to break NBA barrier

This is just a hunch, but as ESPN scrounges for storylines in the lead-up to the Women’s Final Four, I bet the American public will learn everything there is to know about Brittney Griner.

To a point, that would be justified. Griner is, without question, the best player in women’s college basketball right now and the undisputed focal point of a Baylor team that is at least as dominant in the women’s game as Kentucky is in the men’s.

I have a feeling this will lead to the latest incarnation of the question that pops up every few years: Can (insert name here) be the first woman to play in the NBA?

I have a different question: Why do we keep asking the first one?

I have said in the past that basketball is the most superstar-driven of sports, and women’s basketball might be even more so than the men’s game.

Women’s college basketball seems to lend itself to having one player who is clearly the class of the college game. Right now, it is Griner.  Not long ago, there was
Maya Moore.

Going back in time even more, we had Candace Parker, then Diana Taurasi and, before her, Sue Bird.

The game never goes more than a few years without anointing a new queen. With each new superstar emerging at the top of the game, the whispers begin.

People wonder if, because so-and-so is so dominant, could she play with the men?

The culture of having one player become so much of a visible face for an entire college sport makes the speculation almost inevitable.

I could understand the enthusiasm if a case were to be made for Griner. She quite literally towers over her competition and is arguably the most dominant post player to come along in some time.

She has recorded a triple-double with 11 blocks and set a single-season NCAA record for blocks as a freshman.  She is once again leading the nation in the category this season and also boasts top-six national marks in scoring and field-goal percentage.

I even remember hearing of Griner in high school when her Houston Nimitz High School team made the state basketball championship in my hometown of
Austin, Texas.

She became the talk of the town. Even a mere three years later, I would bet few people even remember that Nimitz did not even win the title. Griner’s presence alone defined the event.

That said, I do not see her as the first woman to play in the NBA. Even at 6 feet 8 inches, her height would still make her one of the smallest post players in the league. 

She simply would not be able to outmuscle the Dwight Howards and Kevin Loves of the game.

The first woman in the NBA will be a point guard. That position, more than any other, places far less of a premium on size and physicality. Precise passing, quick hands on defense and a good shooting touch could all transfer from the women’s game to
the men’s.

It is hard to say when this could happen. But what we do know is that, like clockwork, a new superstar will hit the scene in a few short years, and another one not long
after that.

If one happens to play point guard, perhaps the speculation about a woman’s potential to be in the NBA will finally be valid.

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