Pinch yourself, Kelsey, it’s real (Basketball)

December 23, 2009
Kelsey Griffin

It’s pretty obvious success hasn’t gone to Kelsey Griffin’s head.

Despite developing into Alaska’s first lady of college basketball as an All-American candidate for the University of Nebraska, the 22-year-old senior sees herself as the same girl from Eagle River.

She still craves Moose’s Tooth pizza.

She still considers former Chugiak High all-star Alicia Adams one of her favorite players.

And she still loves waking up Christmas morning in her own bed.

Just being home for the holidays is the best present she could ask for.

“I’m so excited,” she said today in a telephone interview. “My brother is actually coming home this year. It’s the first time in like eight years that he’s been home for Christmas. The whole family is together. It’s so awesome.”

“I’m just really happy to be home. I couldn’t really ask for anything more.”

Except maybe a national championship, that is.

At this point of the season, it’s not that farfetched. Led by Griffin, Nebraska is off to its best-ever start (11-0) while climbing to its highest AP ranking (No. 14) in a dozen seasons. The 6-foot-2 Alaskan leads the Big 12 Conference in rebounding (9.9) and ranks sixth in scoring (17.9), backing up her preseason All-America hype.

Earlier this week Griffin delivered 30 points and 14 rebounds to key a win over No. 5 LSU, a statement victory that proved that the Huskers weren’t faking it. They are legit and so is Griffin.

Just don’t expect her to brag about it because, in a way, she can’t believe how far she’s come.

“It’s unreal,” she said with a laugh. “When I got on campus at Nebraska (as a freshman) there were a lot of people saying that I’d never play.”

Now she’s entertaining the idea of graduating to the WNBA, following in the footsteps of fellow Alaskans such as Jessica Moore and Molly Tutor.

“The potential to play in the WNBA, I would have never fathomed that. I had no idea that was actually a possibility,” said the two-time All Big-12 selection.

Just think, a couple years ago she was dreaming about beating childhood idol Alicia Adams, her favorite player growing up.

“I didn’t watch a whole lot of NBA growing up … I would go and watch Alicia play (at UAA),” Griffin said. “She worked so hard. It was so fun to see her play. She was a good player. If you watched the way she played she was really fundamental. She was such a hard worker. I guess in a sense … she was somebody I looked up to.”

Adams would also come to the Mustangs’ practice because her dad Tracy coached the team.

“I was so excited to meet her,” Griffin said. “I couldn’t believe I was practicing with her.”

These days, though, people look up to Griffin.

Question: Did your coach let you come back for Christmas for a week as a reward for starting 11-0?
Answer: I think our preseason played into that. I think that made it easier for her to give us those days off.

Q: What do you miss most about Lincoln, Neb.?
A: My teammates. I do miss my team. They are so much fun to hang out with. I just love it. I love going to practice most days and it’s great to hang out with them.

Q: What stands out most this year?
A: I think the fact that we have six seniors who really set the tone in the offseason and have a junior class that was really willing to listen and at the same time be really good leaders, so when it came time to work hard in practice everyone knew what they needed to get done.

Q: What are your thoughts moving forward?
A: This year more than any other year I’m trying to soak it all in because I think this is going to be one of the most memorable, enjoyable years of basketball that I’ll probably play. I’m really excited about that.

Q: Is everything good with your foot injury recovery?
A: Well, as good as it can be. You’re never quite the same after surgery, but my surgeon did a great job. My trainer did a phenomenal job rehabbing me back.

Q: Do you think college athletes should be paid?
A: Actually I don’t. We get a stipend, so it covers our rent; it covers our food, so in a sense we are paid. But then to get paid on top of it, I don’t really think so. At least not at Nebraska. Nebraska takes such good care of us. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

Q: What was the first thing you did when you got home?
A: Went to Moose’s Tooth. And the next day for lunch I went to Pizza Man, so I did the tour of pizza places.

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