Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Updated: March 5, 3:25 PM ET
Too little, too late for Griner
By Glenn Nelson
Brittney Griner's participation in the McDonald's All-American Game will be considered an excused absence, but her father says the Aldine (Texas) Independent School District is merely bending to pressure by the media and McDonald's, and that its reversal has come too late for her to participate in the event.
An angry Raymond Griner said his daughter would play in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association all-star game in St. Louis on April 4 and an all-star game in Texas. Brittney Griner, the No.1 player in the HoopGurlz 100 who also has drawn national attention for her dunking ability, was told on Monday by the school that she couldn't play in the McDonald's All-American Game or participate in any of its events like the slam dunk contest because it would cause her to miss too many school days.
Raymond Griner also said the only written notice his family has received was the letter from Watson Wright, principal at Nimitz High School in Houston, denying the request for his daughter to participate in the event because it would be considered an "excessive" absence.
District superintendent Wanda Bamberg told Raymond Griner on Tuesday that she'd just been made aware of the situation and conflicts, Griner added. Mike Kenney, an Aldine ISD spokesperson, said the district was not aware of Wright's letter when contacted by ESPN HoopGurlz on Monday.
"How can they say they did not know?" Raymond Griner asked on Wednesday. "If they've backtracked and said Brittney can make up the work, nothing has been put in writing. I don't want to gamble on that. I don't trust them."
Kenney said the district would "honor what the family wants to do." If Griner chooses to play, she would be allowed to make up missed days and schoolwork, Kenney added.
Brittney Griner's 27.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 7.6 blocks per game have helped Nimitz become the first girls' basketball team from the Aldine district to advance to the Texas 5A state championships, which will be held this weekend in Austin. Griner, who will attend Baylor next year, set a national high school record with 25 blocks in a game earlier this season.
Once she received the notice from Watson denying her absence for the McDonald's game, Griner "moved on" and made travel arrangements for the WBCA game, her father said.
Raymond Griner said making travel arrangements for himself to Miami for the event at this late date would be too big a financial burden. The former Harris County sheriff added that he would not consider allowing his daughter to travel alone "because she is too high-profile and just a teenager." Griner also denied Internet innuendo that he'd sought to have his expenses covered by McDonald's; a source associated with the game confirmed this.
The first girl not to play in the game after being selected, Brittney Griner will continue to be considered a McDonald's All-American and will not be replaced on the West Squad roster. Playing in the game is a five-day commitment, involving charity functions, banquets, practices, the Powerade Jam Fest and the game on April 1 in Miami. Raymond Griner pointed out that his daughter, who is 6-foot-8, cannot buy clothes off the rack and that it likely is too late to special-order outfits appropriate for the McDonald's functions she'd have to attend.
"I'm upset that after all Brittney has done for the district, that they would treat her this way," Raymond Griner said.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American selection committees, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was the editor in chief of an online sports network and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.