Dec. 13, 2012
By Matt Park -
As the non-conference season comes to an end, the Arizona women’s basketball team prepares for the rigorous Pac-12 Conference schedule. The Wildcats own a 6-3 record, with seven of the nine games played on the road. Most recently, Arizona concluded a five-game road trip with a win against New Mexico at the Pit.
Junior Kama Griffitts has emerged as an important factor in the Wildcats’ victories. In Las Vegas, Griffitts helped the Wildcats defeat UNLV by scoring 25 points, 21 coming from the three-point line. Against New Mexico, Griffitts put up 16 points and made 40 percent of her three-point attempts.
The guard has started in all nine games and has averaged 31 minutes with 10.9 points and 2.1 steals. Griffitts is fulfilling her role as the team’s three-point specialist, but has made significant contributions in other areas as well. Her all-around presence on the court reveals the balance in her game.
Among her statistics, the most surprising one is Griffitts’s rebounding. The Coeur D’Alene, Idaho native leads Arizona women’s hoops in defensive rebounds with 40 and is second in total with 51.
“It’s unbelievable,” Arizona head coach Niya Butts said. “Despite the fact that she is a guard, it just shows how actively Kama goes to the boards.”
Prior to joining the Wildcats, Griffitts attended junior college at North Idaho College, where she averaged four rebounds in two years. Currently, Griffitts averages 5.7 rebounds against Division I opponents.
“Kama practices hard all the time,” coach Butts said. “She understands the extra effort that is needed to reach her potential.”
Griffitts’s appreciation for practice grew during last season, as she redshirted after transferring last midseason. Instead of traveling and playing with the team, she practiced hard, but only could watch games from the bench.
“It was really hard for me to sit down and watch,” Kama said. “I am an extremely competitive person. I wanted to play and help the team out on the court.”
Leading up to her redshirt year, Griffitts consistently played a vital role for her past teams. At North Idaho College, she received numerous awards such as first team honors from the All-Scenic West Athletic Conference and honors from NJCAA. In Coeur d’Alene High School, Griffitts was named two-time Idaho Player of the Year, and she led her team to back-to-back championships
Despite her consistent improvement, the momentum of Griffitts’s progress would slow down. She knew the consequences of being a redshirt but still welcomed the situation because of the opportunity that she would eventually get -- to display her talent among the best college basketball players.
“It took me time to realize it,” Griffitts said. “But my redshirt season was a great time for me to improve myself and prepare for this season.”
Redshirting gave Griffitts time to study and understand certain aspects of basketball that coaches stressed during practice. She particularly expanded her knowledge on the importance of rebounding.
“Our coaches always tell us rebounds are hustle plays,” Griffitts said. “When we rebound, we lengthen our possession and also deny our opponents from scoring. It gives us control over the game.”
Griffitts’s impressive stats are a reflection of her patience and willingness to apply what she learns.
“Even though I have been practicing with Division I players, I was never in a game situation until this year,” Griffitts said. “It took me a couple of games to get into the swing of things.”
Griffitts’s development as a key contributor inspires confidence for her teammates to take on the team and individual challenges that lie ahead in a tough Pac-12 schedule.
“Kama is definitely growing into her leadership role,” Butts said. “A lot of her leadership comes from leading by example. With more games, the more comfortable she will feel in that leadership role.”
On a team with many new players, Griffitts relishes the leadership role and uses her past experiences as a tool to provide guidance.
“When we lose, we can’t dwell on them,” Griffitts said. “We always have to be willing to move forward, which means learning from our losses. We have to stay strong mentally.”
Griffits and the Arizona women’s basketball team will close out their non-conference schedule with two home games, hosting Weber State on Sunday, Dec. 16 and Longwood on Dec. 20.