Monday, June 10, 2013

JMU-bound Griffin also a star in track

JMU-bound Griffin with her field award.
If you know anything about athletics at Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, you know the school boasts a nationally acclaimed track and field program headed by arguably the best coach in the state in Claude Toukene. So when Toukene refers to one of his athletes as remarkable and notes he has never seen anything like the feat she accomplished this past notice, you take notice.

Too bad, he lamented jokingly at last week's spring awards ceremony, that Da'Lishia Griffin found basketball before track.

We doubt that James Madison is sorry 'bout that. Griffin, an incoming James Madison freshman, received the the top award for a Western Branch field athlete in her first season as a track athlete. It's unusual for a senior to even come out for track, but to qualify for state -- "Remarkable," Toukene said.

The 6-2 forward -- who averaged 15.1 ppg and 12.6 rpg for the Bruins basketball team in the winter -- said she tried track at Toukene's urging.

"He asked me to throw shot put and discus," Griffin said. "I had never thrown a shot put or discus before a day in my life."

The technique stumped her, for a bit, and holding the discus felt almost unnatural at first. But by season's end, Griffin finished top four in both in the Southeastern District and all-Eastern Region in the discus, which allowed her to compete in the state tournament.

"The basketball weightlifting helped the strength aspect of it," Griffin said. "Once you get the technique down, you can throw it as far as your body allows you to."

Relax, Kenny Brooks. Griffin says basketball remains her favorite sport by far, and she can't wait to suit up for the Dukes (in fact, Monday is her first day on campus in Harrisonburg, as she is starting school at JMU even before her high school graduation).

Although Griffin has played basketball since she was 8, she enjoyed trying every sport and admits that were it not for those nasty allergies, who knows? You see Griffin was also a pretty good tennis player, but tennis is a spring sport.

"I had terrible allergies during that time in the season," she said. "The spring pollen was really bad, and I'd get flare-ups."

So basketball became her game and JMU her future. Griffin visited several schools along the East Coast -- George Mason and Virginia Tech were among those in the running -- before choosing JMU. "JMU was the one that stuck with me," said Griffin, who loves the coaching staff already. "They're very chill, but when it's time to play, everyone is ready to play and they have one goal in mind, which is to win, which is exactly what I want. They have a winning program and I know Coach Brooks, he plans to stay there. I don't want to go to a college where people leave and I'm still there. That's going on a lot right now."

Griffin said she admires Brooks' humbleness. "I've talked to no one who has had anything negative to say about him. I called Delaware and said I had accepted the scholarship at James Madison, and they said, 'You know what? I can't be too mad at that because Kenny Brooks is a great guy, and they have a great program.' "

When she's not ballin', Griffin likes to take pictures and draw, and her potential major is either architectural design or sports management.

Griffin says playing college ball didn't occur to her until the last three years, when she started to think, "You know what? I think I can play at the next level."

We know she can and can't wait to see her at JMU.

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