Debbie Antonelli

Nebraska’s Kelsey Griffin making a statement on and off the court

by Debbie Antonelli February 01, 2010 in Women's Basketball


Kelsey Griffin’s versatility on the basketball floor defies a position.  The 6-2 senior for the University of Nebraska just plays. . . all facets of the game.  Kelsey’s an All-American candidate for the top-10 ranked Huskers, which has emerged as one of the best teams and best stories in all of college basketball this season.  Kelsey is a “sure thing,” playing the game she loves and a “can’t miss” when it comes to the future.

It’s hard to predict championship and leadership qualities in an individual.  Those qualities are measured by many different standards.  Yet challenge is the recurring theme for Griffin.  Tackling the next challenge in her life as a student-athlete is what is also rewarding.  The publishing business makes millions on theories, strategies and self-help motivators.  Just spend 10 minutes with Griffin and you won’t need to purchase another book.  She has “it.” You might not be able to define “it” but you will recognize a special quality when you encounter Kelsey.  Her story of character, class and perseverance is priceless.

One measure of a leader is the ability to serve and Griffin does that well on and off the court.  When teammate and roommate Nikki Bober had her fifth knee surgery, Griffin was there to do whatever she could.  If that meant shoveling snow so Bober could get her car out or going to the grocery store or dishing up assists in the lane, Griffin is all about team. 

“I want people to know that I care about them,” Griffin said. “I want them to remember me as hard working and compassionate and someone who would do whatever I could for a teammate.” 

Griffin has endured an injury-plagued career at Nebraska.  Homesick, breathing problems, cracked ribs and a twisted ankle that required surgery kept her from playing last season.  Her dad was diagnosed with throat cancer a year ago and she found the resolve to press on with his blessing. 

“My Dad’s battle with cancer was an attitude shift in the way I approached basketball,” Griffin explained. “Whatever happens I have learned to appreciate every day. Things are never as good as they seem and never as bad as they seem.” 

She has things going pretty well in Lincoln.  Griffin loves to practice and compete along side her teammates.  She learned toughness playing soccer in the backyard with older brother Geoff who would place her in the goal and try to score on his little sister.  She started playing basketball in Eagle River, Alaska, in third grade.  As she moved into competitive basketball, her job was to rebound.  Rebounding is what she does well in leading the Big 12 Conference statistically and in getting her past any bumps in the road. 

“I’m sometimes faulted for my competitive sprit.  I’m not a fun person to argue with.  I think that competitiveness comes from my mom,” she said.

Griffin grew up idolizing the players at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.  She wasn’t highly recruited through the AAU circuit, which turned out to be to Nebraska’s advantage. Just talking to Griffin, you can sense there is a special quality about her passion, desire and drive to make this a special year at Nebraska.  Even opposing coaches respect her special skill set. According to Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors, Griffin is very difficult to prepare for.

“Griffin is one of the best post players in the country because she is skilled and smart . . . the complete package because if you take one thing away from her, she will find another way to beat you,” Goestenkors said.

Griffin’s goal her freshman year was to play 10 minutes a game. Now she dreams of a career in the WNBA.  She is in the top 10 career charts for Nebraska in many different categories and getting better.  Yet, she’s grounded in the quality of character and the instinct to do the right things whether it is on or off the court.  Griffin tells her teammates to stay focused and work hard in practice to get better everyday. 

Griffin and Nebraska are drawing record crowds, being recognized in the grocery store in Lincoln and bringing new fans and friends to the game of women’s basketball every day.  You sense this team is grounded and has its priorities in the right. Griffin is someone who will do whatever it takes to ensure things are done the right way with the proper amount of leadership and service to her school, her teammates and her community.

Nebraska is where it is today on the basketball map because of the leadership of Kelsey Griffin.