Tiaria Griffin is playing a big role in her freshman season.
Jan. 22, 2013
ATHENS---At the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Georgia Lady Bulldogs’ head coach Andy Landers spoke highly of the incoming freshman class. As the team now approaches the meat of its Southeastern Conference schedule, that freshman class has become increasingly important to the Lady Dogs.
One of the most impressive members of the five-person class has been guard Tiaria Griffin. The diminutive wing player has been a consistent scorer in her freshman campaign, averaging the fourth-most points on the team with a 7.4 points per game average.
Griffin said that the transitioning from playing basketball at Hattiesburg High School to performing in the SEC has been a process she has enjoyed.
“I think I’ve transitioned pretty well so far. At first it was a bit hectic but now I feel like I’ve gotten in the groove of everything and I’m doing pretty good,” Griffin said. “It’s very aggressive, in the SEC there’s much more intensity during the game and everybody’s trying to win so it’s a bit harder than at the beginning of the season.”
For hall-of-fame head coach Landers, the early success that Griffin has experienced only makes the coaching staff want to see more.
“Tiaria has done very well but in doing so she makes us want more. There are certain areas that from the onset we wanted to improve, some of those we’ve improved a great deal, some of those we’ve only improved a little,” Landers said. “Her contribution, performance and her attitude have all been terrific but there’s more in her and there’s better in her.”
Griffin has been impressive offensively for Georgia through the first 19 games of the season, especially from beyond the arc. She is shooting 30.7 percent on three-point attempts, the fourth-best mark on the team having taking the second-most attempts. It is on the other end of the court, however, that Griffin feels she has the most room to improve.
“I feel like I could be a very good defensive player if I just set my mind to it,” she said. “Also offensively I could shoot the ball better than I have so I think I could do a little better.”
Griffin is one of five freshmen on the Lady Bulldog roster, the other four are guards Shacobia Barbee and Marjorie Butler and forwards Merritt Hempe and Kaelyn Causwell. Griffin said that this group has formed strong relationships early in their college careers.
“For the most part all of us are really close, even seniors and juniors and sophomores. But the freshmen I feel like we came in and depended on each other to make each other feel more comfortable,” she said. “We leaned on each other and I feel like we’ve made a good bond with each other.”
She also went on to praise the work of seniors Jasmine James, Jasmine Hassell, Anne Marie Armstrong, Tamika Willis, Ebony Jones and Danielle Bennett in making the freshmen feel welcome and helping them acclimate to their new environment.
Landers said that, with a large chuck of the SEC schedule still in front of them, he knows what Griffin has to do to become a better player.
“I think she has to be more aggressive with the basketball; she has to be more aggressive on the cuts, on the catch, on the bounce and on the drives,” Landers said. “She’s extremely quick and I’m not sure she uses that quickness to her advantage as much as she can.”
When asked about Griffin’s personality, however, Landers face broke from the concentrated look of a coach into a bright, beaming smile.
“She’s the one everybody thinks is funny. She doesn’t even have to try; she has that kind of personality,” he said. “If she try’s she’s hilarious but normal minute-by-minute she’s really funny.”
The respect between the two is mutual, with the freshman describing playing under Landers as a “blessing.” She added that her freshman season at Georgia has been a fun experience even if her attitude to basketball hasn’t changed much.
“I thought it would be a lot different but once you’re on the court it’s all the same,” Griffin said. “You just play together and try to win. It’s been very fun.”
The 14th-ranked Lady Bulldogs (16-3, 3-2 SEC) return to action on Sunday when they host Florida at Stegeman Coliseum. Tipoff is at 1p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on CSS.