DENVER – Whether emphatically blocking shots or throwing down dunks on the other the end of the floor, Brittney Griner has been the most dominant player in women's basketball this season.
The 6-foot-8 junior phenom has led Baylor to a perfect record and the Lady Bears stand two wins away from becoming the first team in NCAA history to win 40 games in a season. Now she is The Associated Press player of the year. Her coach Kim Mulkey completed a Baylor sweep of the awards, being selected coach of the year.
"It's an honor," said Griner, who became the first Baylor player to win the award. "We have a great year going and for it to be the perfect season for me, we've got to win the national championship."
The two-time All-American got 36 of the votes from the 40-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Delaware's Elena Delle Donne received two votes while Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins and Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike got the other ones.
Mulkey, who won the award for the first time, received 19 votes. Tina Martin of Delaware was second with 14. Jim Crowley of St. Bonaventure got three votes and Kim Barnes-Arico of St. John's, Matt Bollant, who coached Wisconsin-Green Bay this season before recently taking the Illinois job, Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame and Katie Meier of Miami each got one vote.
"I'm honored, but truthfully, I'm only as good as the kids I get to coach," Mulkey said. "I'm blessed they are on my team, they make you look good."
Mulkey knew it was going to be a special year for her team the moment Griner texted her after a loss in the NCAA regional finals last season.
"She was the only kid that texted me within an hour of the loss," Mulkey said. "She said she was sorry that she didn't deliver. When you have a kid as talented as she is, you knew she was going to come back an even better player. She's stronger, she's forceful. She's dominant."
Griner averaged 23.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.2 blocks this season. She shot 61 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free throw line. And she has raised her game over the last month.
Griner wowed the nation becoming the second women's player ever to dunk in the NCAA tournament with a one-handed jam in the second-round win over Florida. She took it a step further in the next game with a two-handed slam on the fast break.
"The first one, I didn't plan on dunking it," Griner said. "It caught me off guard that I did it. The second one, yeah I knew beforehand I was going to try. I'm so focused right now on getting the win and moving on to the next game. I'll celebrate it later. It was definitely great though."
She has been more aggressive this season rarely taking plays off, something she learned while playing on the U.S. national team's European training tour in late September. She was the only college player in the group, and potentially could be the only collegian on the Olympic team this summer.
U.S. coach Geno Auriemma sensed a masterpiece in the making.
"Who carved out the statue of 'David', Michaelangelo?" he said. "She's got a chance to be that down the road. Right now there's a lot of uncarved away stuff because she's so young. There's things she does that no one else can do. I've never seen anyone do things she can do. All the things she can't do it's because she hasn't had the experience to do them yet. The more she's put in that situation I think her growth is going to be exponential. She's going to take off."
Griner wasn't one of the 11 players unveiled Friday to make the Olympic team, but there is still one spot open and it's potentially hers.