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Thursday, March 29, 2012
The Kid's kid: Taryn Griffey is ready to shine

By Mike Grimala

Taryn Griffey
Her dad, Ken Griffey Jr., is one of the greatest players in baseball history and her brother, Trey, is one of the nation's top prep football players, but Taryn Griffey has earned her share of the spotlight.

If there's one thing Taryn Griffey knows how to do, it's perform under a spotlight.

For someone who's growing up Griffey, that's sort of a prerequisite. Whenever the Dr. Phillips High School (Orlando, Fla.) sophomore takes the court, she's automatically the center of attention as soon as the PA announcer reads off her last name.

That's what happens when your father is a baseball icon, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer with 630 career home runs and 10 Gold Gloves. And when your older brother is a star wide receiver at the same high school and signs a football scholarship to play at Arizona, that only raises the stakes.

"I realize that anytime someone from this family does something in sports, there are always going to be expectations," Taryn said. "People expect you to be a great athlete or whatever, but I don't worry about that so much."

Sure, Ken Griffey Jr. may be one of the greatest players in baseball history, and Trey Griffey may be one of the best high school football players in the country, but Taryn has earned her share of the spotlight.

The 5-foot-7 point guard has already established herself as one of the nation's top basketball players by using a combination of athleticism and energy to take over games against even the best competition. She's rated as the No. 13 point guard in the ESPN HoopGurlz Class of 2014 rankings.

As a freshman last season, she averaged 15.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists while leading Dr. Phillips to a Florida Class 8A state title. She followed that with a star-making performance at the 2011 National High School Invitational tournament, averaging 16.0 points and 10.0 rebounds while powering the Panthers to the championship.

Taryn Griffey
Family time for the Griffeys "usually means what dad wants to do [is] what we're going to do," said Ken (second from right) with (from left) Trey, Melissa, Tevin and Taryn -- and it's usually something competitive.
"You would have never known she was a freshman," said Dr. Phillips coach Anthony Jones. "To play in the NHSI, with the games on TV on ESPN, and be so cool and relaxed -- she knocked down shots, she made big steals -- she just made every big play right when we needed it."

Opponents are unable to handle her quickness, and Jones takes advantage of that by making Griffey the centerpiece of Dr. Phillips' offensive and defensive schemes. She upped her scoring output to 16.4 points per game this season, shooting 56 percent from the field and an absurd 49 percent from behind the 3-point line. She also fronted the Panthers' trapping defense and averaged 3.4 steals.

"I think our style is fun," Taryn said. "I have the freedom to take the ball up the court and make plays. Mostly I just try to use my quickness to set up my teammates for shots. If I can't find anyone, then I try to look for my own shot.

"On defense, we trap and then play a zone, trying to force turnovers. We try to make it a fast-paced or up-tempo game."

With Griffey dominating both ends of the court, Dr. Phillips went 29-3 this season and won the Class 8A state championship in February. The Panthers are ranked No. 22 in the POWERADE FAB 50 and earned the No. 2 seed for NHSI.

Last season, Dr. Phillips was the lowest-seeded team in the tournament. And just because the Panthers are now the defending champs and one of the favorites, Griffey realizes that nothing is guaranteed.

Taryn Griffey
Griffey's quickness makes the 5-foot-7 guard a force on both ends of the court.
"Even though you're ranked higher than another team, they're not going to stop playing," she said. "We know because we did it last year. We were the underdogs and we fought all the way to the championship. So we know our opponents are going to play their hearts out, and we have to step up and be ready for that."

Griffey is obviously no stranger to competition. As one could imagine, being a member of America's royal sports family means earning respect through countless games of H-O-R-S-E. Her mother, Melissa, recalls how Taryn and Trey would battle their parents on the basketball court.

"Ken always had a rule," said Melissa, laughing. "The kids were always very competitive, but his rule was that once they started talking junk, he wasn't going to let them win anymore. We'd let them beat us when they were younger, but once they started talking junk, we took it up a level. Because you know Ken didn't like to lose, either."

If Taryn Griffey can lead Dr. Phillips to another NHSI crown this week, that would give her a pair of state titles and two NHSI victories in her first two high school seasons.

Even for a Griffey, that's impressive.