Hoops' next big thing

As impressive as Griffin's play was, it was something he did after a whistle that stressed how strong a player he truly is.

blake griffin 88 (photo credit: )
blake griffin 88
(photo credit: )
University of Oklahoma big man Blake Griffin has been proving all season long that he's destined for greatness. And in Thursday night's 82-54 win over Morgan State, he added another reason to believe he can be a superstar. Looking at the game's box score - 28 points on 11-for-12 shooting plus 13 rebounds - one can see that Griffin had a dominant game, but perhaps chalk it up to subpar competition for the Big 12 Conference power. Watching the highlights and seeing Griffin's impressive array of alley-oop dunks, tip-ins and bank shots, as well as his ball handling and passing, impress that despite the relative low level of the opponent, Griffin was playing at a very high level. As impressive as Griffin's play was, it was something he did after a whistle that stressed how strong a player he truly is. With Oklahoma pulling away in the second half, the game grew considerably more physical, as the smaller Morgan State lineup had few other ways to slow down the 2.09meter, 115-kilogram Griffin. Oklahoma's coaches took notice and appealed to a referee, who signaled to his colleagues to keep an eye on Morgan State forward Ameer Ali. Shortly thereafter, exactly what the Oklahoma staff had feared transpired. As Ali and Griffin went downcourt after a Morgan State possession, they became tangled up and Ali practically bodyslammed Griffin. It was the type of play from which dozens of 'basketbrawls' have emerged. But not with Griffin. While the referees ejected Ali, Griffin hopped to his feet, turned his back on the situation and walked to the other side of the court. After the game, Griffin addressed the situation with a maturity level rarely seen in a player just a few days past his 20th birthday. "The only reason they're doing it is to get me to do something stupid for me to not be able to play," Griffin said. "I'm not going to let them win that game so I just walk away." To understand that what Griffin did and said is the smart thing to do is one thing, but to actually keep your cool in such a situation is another, as his head coach Jeff Capel noted. "I appreciate it because I couldn't do it," Capel said. "When I was his age, there's no way that I would have been able to handle it like that. "I think more than anything it shows how smart he is. He understands why people are doing some of these things. He understands his value to our basketball team and he can't react selfishly because that hurts our basketball team." Griffin's college basketball career is an all likelihood coming to an end. The Sporting News has already named him its national college basketball player of the year and many other awards are to follow in the coming days and weeks leading up to the NCAA Final Four. Although he has two more years of eligibility, there is little reason for Griffin to remain in college. He's simply too good for the level of competition and, with millions of dollars to be earned in the NBA, that is certainly his next stop. He'll join a long list of college superstars who left school for the NBA at a young age. But Griffin's physical and emotional maturity is something rarely seen on a player so talented and could be what separates him from the rest on the road to a long and fruitful career.