Texas Southern’s Derrick Griffin Plays Two Sports With Same Tenacity

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 26th, 2016

Scoring 19 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a collegiate debut is impressive — especially when you do it on the road at an SEC school after a 12-hour bus ride. When you’ve known your teammates for 48 hours and only practiced with them once. And haven’t played competitively in two years. And you were playing a different sport at a Division I level five days before. Somehow, Texas Southern wide-receiver-cum-forward Derrick Griffin managed to pull that off on December 2 at Mississippi State in a closer-than-it-appeared 85-73 loss. The Houston native and former Rivals.com four-star football recruit – he signed to play football at Miami before failing to academically qualify – has turned his athleticism into a series of highlight-reel dunks, gobbled-up rebounds and impressively blocked shots, and he’s part of his hometown Tigers’ 13-1 start in SWAC play.

A first round pick in the NFL or the NBA?! Derrick Griffin is that type of athlete. (Houston Chronicle)

A first round pick in the NFL or the NBA?! Derrick Griffin is that type of athlete. (Houston Chronicle)

“I’m like a junkyard dog out there,” Griffin says. That tenacity has the 6’7″, 225-pound post ranking eighth-best in the country in two-point field goal percentage, 12th in offensive rebounding rate and among the top 125 nationally in defensive rebounding rate and shot-blocking rate, according to KenPom. And if there were a stat for alley-oops per game, Griffin would have to be leading the nation. He tallied four in the first half alone against Syracuse – and that was just his fifth game as a collegian. He hasn’t missed more than one shot in a game in February – he’s 29-of-33 in six games – and he’s had 10 or more rebounds in 13 of Texas Southern’s 14 conference games. “On the court, he’s really quiet,” says head coach Mike Davis, who led Indiana to the NCAA Tournament Championship Game in 2002. “He’s really aggressive. He has an inner rage, not in a bad way, but inner rage. Like, you push that button and he’s got ultimate, ultimate aggression on plays. He can be standing there and all of a sudden block a shot with so much aggressiveness, and you’re like, ‘Wow.’”

All of Griffin’s production is coming without being a part of the scripted offense, Davis says. Because Griffin joined the Tigers seven games into the season, Davis didn’t want to confuse anyone by changing the structure of the offense. Instead, Davis lets Griffin spend the game swatting shots and chasing rebounds, getting his offense on fast-break dunks and put-backs. But to heck with scripted offense – Griffin wasn’t supposed to be a part of Texas Southern’s script at all. After ending up without a place to play football when he couldn’t qualify at Miami, he ended up in the Football Championship Subdivision. His 36 catches, 709 yards and 11 touchdowns earned him second-team all-conference honors as a freshman in 2015 despite being on a 3-7 team whose coach, Darrell Asberry, was let go after the season. Davis watched Griffin play football in the fall, but he also remembered watching him play basketball at B.F. Terry High School – and in AAU, where he was teammates with Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who starred at Kentucky.

“He could be a first-round football player or a first-round basketball player. You don’t see it a whole lot in this profession. … In the next two years, he could play at any level: He could play at Kentucky, he could play at UCLA, he could play anywhere,” Davis says. “I gotta pinch myself, but that’s the beauty of it. I wish we had more time with him for basketball, but he’s got to be able to be over there for football.” Given the choice between posting up and running post routes, Griffin says he would rather play football, but his dream is to play professionally in one of the two sports, and his characteristic quiet tenacity could lead him there. “I’m hungry,” Griffin says. “I love being out there. I love doing what I do.”

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