“I think it’s kind of funny, actually,” said Griffey, who already has verbal offers from Mizzou, Kansas and Purdue and heavy interest from Louisville, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois, among others. “I have, what, 20, 19 months ‘til I can actually sign? We me only being a sophomore, I don’t know [where I want to go].”
But that’s not to say he isn’t already evaluating some of his options, which is good news for MU fans; Griffey, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound four-star prospect who averaged 16.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last fall, is a lifelong Mizzou fan.
“I guess you could say that,” he said. “I’ve been to the most games at Missouri and grew up watching them on TV.”
Griffey’s favorite Tiger of all-time? Kareem Rush. And though he’s listed as a power forward, Griffey already has some of the perimeter skills that made Rush a star.
“I think my biggest strength is my versatility. I can play the three, the four or the five and maybe even the two. That’s what I take pride in, being able to do whatever my coach asks me to do,” he said.
Scott Schroepfer, one of his coaches with the St. Louis-based Gateway Basketball Club, is less diplomatic about Griffey’s skills.
“He shoots the snot out of it,” Schroepfer said, laughing.
Griffey shot a dazzling 43 percent from 3-point range last season and has excellent footwork, both the product of an intrepid work ethic.
“He’s very humble, very focused. He’s a 3.5 student. He works on his game constantly,” said Schorepfer. “To give you an idea, we had gotten back [from an out-of-town tournament] late, around ten o’clock on a Sunday night. He had an open gym the next day at eight o’clock and he was there and hour and fifteen minutes early, getting shots up. Then he played with his high school teammates for another hour and fifteen minutes.
“It’s his love of the game.”
Present at that workout was MU head coach Mike Anderson. Griffey will be attending team camp in Columbia later this summer. The MU staff has made it clear he is a priority recruit. With his versatility, seven-foot wingspan and soft shooting touch, he would seem to be a fantastic fit in the MU system.
“I like Coach Anderson’s style. What I like to do is [a good fit] with how they run. That’s big for me,” he said.
Still, he’s reluctant to talk specifically about which programs he likes most, preferring instead to wait and see. To give an idea about how unassuming he and his parents are when it comes to his status, they have mentioned repeatedly that they’re unsure whether or not he’ll still have an offer from Saint Louis University since head coach Brad Soderberg was fired and replaced with Rick Majerus.
“He’s wide open,” Schroepfer said. “His parents, they do a great job of keeping him grounded, keeping him a kid … You see a lot of parents who get all wrapped up in their kids and who they are. His parents are awesome.”
At the Kingswood Classic in Houston a few weeks ago, a miscommunication led to Griffey missing a morning meeting. With dozens of college coaches there to watch him, he sat the entire first half.
“The kid didn’t say anything and the parents didn’t say anything. They were fine with it,” Schroepfer said. “He scored 20 points in the second half.”
Griffey has started since his freshman year, when he posted 26 points and 12 rebounds in his the first game of his high school career. He’s been a known commodity in the region’s basketball circles for quite a while, much like former Poplar Bluff star and current North Carolina All-America Tyler Hansbrough.
“Even your David Lees and your Larry Hugheses, those guys didn’t explode until their junior year of high school. He’s had it, shoot, since the eighth grade,” Schroepfer said.
Griffey is currently in the middle of a frenetic summer travel schedule. He’s already traveled to several events and will go to Ft. Wayne, Las Vegas, Oklahoma, Columbia, San Francisco, Bloomington and Kansas City for other tournaments and camps. He’s also a member of the prestigious ’09 Adidas national team, which will compete against all-star teams from other countries.
In an effort not to run him ragged and allow him to maintain his academic focus, have opted to keep him home for a few selected weekends rather than traveling to tournaments. He’s also taking 400 shots per day and working out with a personal trainer four times a week, aiming to enter his junior season at around 225 pounds, having already gained 10 pounds since last season.
In terms of recruiting, Griffey said location is not a factor. He’ll go wherever he feels most comfortable. But it’s safe top say Mizzou should be in a good position with him throughout the process. As more coaches learn about him, however, there’s no doubt the competition for his signature will be stiff.
“He’s all upside,” Schroepfer said, “ and that’s a scary point.”