Los Angeles (April 6, 2012)— The John R. Wooden Award®, the preeminent collegiate basketball player of the year award, was presented this evening at the Los Angeles Athletic Club by Coach John Wooden’s daughter, Nan, to Baylor University’s Brittney Griner. Baylor Assistant Coach Damion McKinney accepted the Award on Griner’s behalf, as the 6-8 junior needed to attend class today, and then went to Houston to be with her ill mother, and thus was not able to make the trip to Los Angeles. Nan Wooden made the announcement and presented Coach McKinney with the Wooden Award Trophy whose unique design was inspired by Coach Wooden’s idea of the “total basketball player.”
Griner took her Baylor team to a historic 40-0 season and the 2012 national title, with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks to lead Baylor in the championship game. The MVP of the Final Four, she ended her junior season ranked No. 7 nationally in scoring (23.2); she also led the country in blocked shots (5.1) while pulling down 9.4 rebounds per game. A two-time Wooden All American, Griner dominates the game at both ends of the floor, and is a leading contender for the final spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. She has announced that she will return to Baylor for her senior season.
In a statement, Griner said, “I am both humbled and honored to receive this most prestigious award and am extremely disappointed that I am unable to be there in person to accept this honor. I need to focus on finishing the semester strong in the classroom after spending the last month on the road with my team playing in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments.
“To receive an award that is named after the great John Wooden, considering all that he represents not only as a coach but as a molder of character of young men and women, is one of the most cherished moments of my athletic career, and most humbling,” Griner added. “I want to thank the nationwide voters and the Los Angeles Athletic Club for this prestigious award, as well as my coaches, teammates, and especially my mom and dad, for without all of them, this would not be possible.”
Griner is the first Baylor player, and first Big 12 Conference player to win the Wooden Award. Voters include hundreds of national women’s college basketball media who selected and ranked 15 balloted players. Griner led the voting with 1,424 points. The four other finalists were in attendance, and they included Delaware guard/forward Elena Delle Donne (1,116 points), the nation’s top scorer at 28.1 points per game; Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins (1,073 points), who averaged 16.8 points and 5.7 assists; Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike (1,012 points), a three-time Wooden All American and the Pac-12 scoring leader at 21.6 ppg; and Green Bay senior Julie Wojta (224 points), the Horizon League Player of the Year at 19.5 ppg.
All players proved that they are making progress toward graduation and are maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA. Voters were asked to take into account performance during the regular season and postseason through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, as well as a player’s character and academic performance, essential components of an outstanding player.
In addition to honoring the Wooden All American teams, the “Legends of Coaching” Award was given to University of Connecticut Head Coach Geno Auriemma. Previous winners include such notables as Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84), Tim Duncan (’97), Maya Moore (’09, ’11) and Blake Griffin (’09). The 2012 Wooden Award on the men’s side was presented to Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.
Since its inception, the John R. Wooden Award has contributed close to a million dollars to universities’ general scholarship fund in the names of the All American recipients. The Award has also sent more than 1,000 underprivileged children to weeklong college basketball camps in the Award’s name. Additionally, the John R. Wooden Award partners with Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) each year to host the Wooden Award Special Olympics Southern California Basketball Tournament. The tournament, which brings together Special Olympic athletes and the All Americans, takes place at The Los Angeles Athletic Club Saturday.