Aurora Christian star excited about chance to play for WNBA legend
When it came to deciding on a college, Aurora Christian senior Anna Griffin thought about which coach she saw the most at her games.
Turns out the coach happens to be one of the best players in women's basketball history.
Tina Thompson, in her third year as the head coach at Virginia, spent plenty of time watching Griffin play for her AAU team, Example Sport, out of Bourbonnais.
"She told me 'I've seen your progression,' and that made me think wow, you are seeing me and talking to my coach and that made me feel you have been following me," said Griffin, who led Aurora Christian to the Class 1A state tournament last season in her first year after transferring from Plainfield Central.
Griffin decided this fall to play her college basketball for Thompson, picking Virginia over Seton Hall, St. Louis, Valparaiso and Marquette.
She'll be playing for a coach who is in both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Thompson retired as the all-time leading scorer in WNBA history, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a four-time WNBA champion and the first player drafted in the WNBA.
"I feel their coaching staff is the best coaching staff," said Griffin, who plans to major in finance. "Some of them have the goofy side, some of them have a serious side and it all equals out.
"I know it's a great school as far as academics. As far as basketball, they aren't at the top but they are ACC which is good competition for me, and I feel they will challenge me and push me to be better."
Virginia, which has gone 12-19 and 13-17 in Thompson's two seasons, played the toughest nonconference schedule during the 2019-'20 campaign.
The 6-foot-1 Griffin, who averaged 17.8 points and 10.4 rebounds last season, is projected at small forward in college. She said she's working on her midrange game and ballhandling to also be able to play shooting guard.
She got a relatively late start with the sport, calling it a "hobby" while playing in middle school before listening to family and friends who told her she had a future. Griffin credited her brother Nate with helping her improve when she first started.
"I started getting more serious about basketball and realized if this is what I want to do I'm going to have to work a lot harder," Griffin said.
Griffin overpowered much of the high school competition she faced last year as the Eagles won a school-record 30 games. In her two games at state, Griffin had 20 points and 11 rebounds, then 22 points and 10 boards.
Griffin's senior season is up in the air because of COVID-19. She's hoping to play, especially with every starter back from their state team playing for a school that made her transfer an easy transition.
"The thought of going to a new school is terrifying and nervous all in one," Griffin said. "Aurora Christian is not a school to be thinking that way. When I got there everybody was so nice and since it was a small school everyone treats you like family. It was a great overall experience and going to state, you couldn't ask for anything better."