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Jenni Carlson: From Oklahoma Christian School to NBA All-Star, Blake Griffin has made quite the rise

by Jenni Carlson Modified: February 22, 2011 at 10:52 am •  Published: February 21, 2011

“I don't know if he's going to turn out to be anything,” the coach said.

Vick laughed as he recounted the story.

“Obviously,” he said, still chuckling, “he did turn out to be something.”

The doubting coach, it seems, got Griffin's off-court goofiness confused with his on-court abilities. The kid was always kidding around with his teammates, always joking, always clowning. The coach just didn't know if he was focused enough to take the game seriously.

Vick and everyone else with Athletes First soon saw what the entire basketball world sees now. Griffin has the perfect personality for success.

He can be The Terminator on the court, but if someone trips him or flips him or even hits him below the belt, he can walk away without slugging someone in the nose.

And that deadpan humor? Griffin can lighten any mood and endear any stranger.

“Blake is an ambassador for the entire state of Oklahoma,” Vick said.

His personality has boosted his stardom.

Cindy Prince never doubted that it would. Even though people were already in awe of Griffin's physical prowess by the time he reached her sophomore English class at Oklahoma Christian School, she saw something more.

One day while the class was talking about racial prejudice in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Griffin raised his hand.

“How can a whole town convict a man who is so obviously innocent?” he asked.

Prince saw that kind of thoughtfulness time and again from Griffin.

Every Christmas, OCS students take gifts to Westwood Elementary. Nearly all of the students at the southside school come from families poor enough to be eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. The holidays can be a bleak for many of them.

Griffin went to Westwood for the first time as a sophomore. He towered over the youngsters, but he folded himself onto the floor and played with a group of second-grade boys for as long as he could.

“You can't teach somebody that kind of compassion,” Prince said.

Griffin became one of Prince's favorites.

“Even his junior and senior years, he came by every single day to give me a hug,” she said. “Every. Single. Day.”

Prince watched the NBA Draft the night that Griffin was selected as the first overall pick, and she cried like a baby.

A couple days later, Prince saw Griffin's dad, Tommy, at the school. He hugged her, and she broke down all over again.

Tears of happiness.

She was so proud of Griffin, and for Prince and all the others who crossed his path on his way to stardom, that hasn't changed.

“That's my boy,” Prince said echoing a sentiment of many for whom tonight's Clippers-Thunder game is a homecoming like no other. “I think of him as my own.”

Tramel: Playing what if on Griffin
by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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