Photo by Dennis Thomas
Clayton State’s Drameka Griggs leads the No. 3 Lady Lakers, averaging 18.5 points a game. Coach Dennis Cox said Griggs has been the spark plug to a mildly surprising 18-0 start.
MORROW — Drameka Griggs is, by no means, the biggest baller on the court, no matter who her Clayton State Lakers may face each game.
But she just might have one of the biggest hearts for the game.
Case in point: In a blowout win against Peach Belt Conference foe Young Harris last week, Griggs was hit hard.
A Young Harris player kick the ball back out to the perimeter, almost approaching half court. Griggs saw it. She charged hard after the recipient of the pass, trying to trap her and force her into a turnover.
Instead she collided with the forehead of a Young Harris player and crumpled to the floor. When she got up, spots of blood could be found near center court.
It came from Griggs’ mouth. She walked off the court hurriedly with a trainer, hand cupped to her mouth to catch the liquid red signs of hard contact.
With Clayton State building a lead that approached 30 points, ‘No more Drameka Griggs for the night,’ was a safe assumption.
You should never assume.
As she trotted back onto the court and toward the Clayton State bench, it seemed like a nice gesture for the team’s injured leader to ride out the rest of the game with them. But when she approached the scorer’s table to check back into the game, only one response seemed logical.
Clayton State coach Dennis Cox had his reasons.
“Maybe it was a little for myself, but I just said that I’ve got to see if the kid was okay,” Cox said. “I let her go back in just to see if she was fine.”
Don’t worry. It wasn’t by coercion.
“They always give me the option of going back in a game or not, and I always say, ‘Yeah I’m good,’” Griggs said.
Does this happen often?
“That’s not the first time she’s been banged up this year,” Cox said.
Let’s see. There was the hard fall on her tailbone. The bruise to her back side that hobbled her for “a stretch of three or four games,” Cox said.
“She’s tough, but she’s small. She’s seems a little fragile,” Cox said. “But she takes people by surprise. She’s so athletic. She goes up high for rebounds and gets undercut all the time because people just don’t expect her to get up like that.”
Oh yes, and then there was the time she virtually played one handed.
“My first year here, I played with something just short of a broken hand,” Griggs said.
Which once again begs the question, why?
“It’s the love for the game,” Griggs said matter of factly.
They list her at 5-foot-5. That might be generous. But what the diminutive point guard, and former Jonesboro High standout lacks in size, she makes up for it in fearless tenacity — almost a reckless abandon in her approach to the game she loves.
“If there’s a faster guard in the nation, I’d like to see who she is,” Cox said. “And we’ve played some pretty good teams over the last couple of years. She’s playing at a real high level now. As a college coach you’re in the season, but you’re always looking ahead, and I’m looking at recruiting, and I just don’t see where we can replace her.”
That’s a testament to Griggs’ development from role player to go-to player.
After transferring from Jacksonville University, she played sparingly when Clayton State won the National Championship after the 2011 season. And with the departure of last season’s standouts Tanisha Woodard and Brittany Hall, Griggs has been thrust into a much more visible leadership position.
“Coach Cox has told me that he wanted me to become more of a playmaker,” Griggs said. “So I’m really just trying to develop as that go-to-person. It’s a lot of pressure, but I feel like I’m handling it well.”
She also seems to handle pain pretty well. Remember that injury against Young Harris? After finishing the game with a mouth full of gauze, her injury required her to get stitches in order to mend the gash.
The heart, the tenacity. The improved play-making ability. It’s all added up to 18.5 points, 3.5 assists and almost four steals a game for Griggs. She’s seemingly taken her game up a notch lately, averaging 26.7 points per contest in the month of January.
And it is her heart that Cox said has been a sort of pacemaker for the third-ranked and undefeated Lakers (18-0, 11-0).
“She’s playing All-American ball right now,” Cox said. “When kids are playing like that, it’s fun to watch.”
Except, perhaps, when they are getting hurt.
But with a player like Griggs who has proven her resiliency, Cox says it’s pretty easy not to worry much about her.
“I said it before, but she’s an amazing athlete,” he said. “And I’ve coached some great athletes. But one like her only comes along once in a while. While we’ve got her we hope we can make the most out of it.”