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Baylor's Brittany GrinerI hope you’ve all been following the phenom that is Brittney Griner. The Baylor University women’s basketball team — featuring the amazing Griner — just made history by capturing the 2012 NCAA Championship and finishing the season 40-0 (first team men’s or women’s to do so).  Most impressive, Griner and her teammates made it all look easy.

Fittingly, the 40-0 season came on the 40th anniversary of Title IX with Coach Kim Mulkey being the only coach in NCAA history to win a title as a player, ass’t coach and head coach.

But back to Griner. Both she and Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins trended during the title game – a sign that there has been some sort of evolution in women’s basketball. A lot of fans watching. A lot of fans tweeting. Griner led her team with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. It’s probably safe to say that Brittney Griner has been Googled more than Britney Spears this year (no real stats so don’t quote me on that!).

The superstar is really nothing short of amazing. Griner posts phenomenal stats on a regular basis, and is only a junior who plans to play one more year for Baylor. She’s 6-foot 8-inches tall, wears a men’s size 17 shoe and has a wingspan of 88 inches.

With all the attention on Griner comes some unwanted side effects.  The androgynous looking athlete may be a super hoops star, but online antagonists mercilessly trash her on Twitter and FB.  Griner, who may well join the Olympic team in London, is constantly questioned about her gender, her looks, her deep voice and her style (the NY Times even wrote a piece about prettifying her).

Do people honestly think that anyone who plays basketball as well as Griner must be a man? Do they think that this fact could have slipped by the NCAA?

After the final game on Tuesday, Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw spoke kindly of Griner’s performance on the court.  But she had some interesting praise for the opposing center. “She’s like a guy playing with women,” said McGraw.

Coach Mulkey advises Griner to stay away from online message boards and cyber bullies but she’s  fed up with insults herself. “This is someone’s child. This is a human being. She didn’t wake up and say make me look like this, make me 6-foot-8 and have the ability to dunk. This child is as precious as they come. … The stuff she’s had to read about, the stuff she’s had to hear, the stuff people say about her, the stuff people write about her, it’s got to stop. That stuff’s got to stop.”

Griner has always said that she would stay at Baylor for all four years, so don’t expect her to be ditching her teammates anytime soon for the WNBA. “I’m staying. I made a commitment. I’m going to stay here until my time’s up, so all the speculations of me leaving early are false,” she said to AP.

So, with one more year to play in the NCAA, here are the top five reasons to watch Brittney Griner:

1)  She can dunk. Griner got her second dunk in the tourney verses Georgia Tech with a two -handed slam.  Her above the rim athleticism is unparalleled in the women’s game.

2) She is a beast on the court who can guard and shoot like a pro. As fun to watch as any NBA player.

3) Her team, the Baylor Lady Bears is THE BEST in the nation.

4) She led Baylor to a 101-13 record during three seasons and is the first Division I player to record more than 2,000 points and 500 blocks.  She has also scored in double figures in 110 of 112 games and blocked at least one shot in 109 of them, including her last 50.

5) She is fun  and goofy and charming and completely unpretentious all at the same time.  A true delight to watch on and off the court.
So if you’re not already a Griner fan, what are you waiting for?

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