February 20, 2023
UConn’s Aubrey Griffin is the epitome of modern basketball
'When you look at Aubrey, she’s defending guards, she’s given the toughest assignments on the best scorers'
When constructing a team, what is the ideal archetype to surround your high-usage guard or post-player? Likely a do-it-all, Swiss army-knife wing. The problem is these types of players come few and far between, so if they happen to become available in the draft — WNBA organizations will certainly pounce on the opportunity to select them.
In the 2022 WNBA Draft, the Indiana Fever selected Louisville’s Emily Engstler with the No. 4 pick. Australian wing Rebecca Allen, nicknamed ‘Spida’ for her long wingspan, has carved out a valuable role in the league. The same goes for Rebekah Gardner, a 31-year-old rookie who was a vital gap-filler for the defending champion Chicago Sky in 2022. Turn to newly-acquired Atlanta Dream wing Allisha Gray, a former No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft, as a high-end outcome for this archetype.
Each of those players has distinct abilities that make them special, but the consensus: they will help you play winning basketball.
Insert UConn’s Aubrey Griffin, a native of Ossining, New York, with a unique athletic background.
Her father, Adrian Griffin Sr., carved out a nine-year NBA career and is currently an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors. Griffin’s mother, Audrey Sterling, was an All-American track athlete at Seton Hall. If that wasn’t already enough, her older brother, Alan, was a starter for a Syracuse team that made a March Madness run in 2020-21, and her younger brother, AJ, is one of the most promising young wings in the NBA currently.
Despite the family’s rooted interest in basketball, soccer was Aubrey’s first love.
“Growing up, she was big into soccer,” Griffin Sr. told The Next. “I could tell at a young age that she was extremely athletic, so fast, I just remember the referees used to call her for offsides a lot of times; her team had a strategy of kicking it and letting her go.”
Even to this day, this is evident in Griffin’s role within UConn’s offensive scheme on the hardwood. She is at the forefront of the Huskies’ open-court attack, ranking in the 94th percentile nationally in transition, her most common play type, according to Synergy Sports.
Griffin has ideal wing size at 6’1 with a ridiculously long wingspan, precise movement patterns, and a nonstop motor. The redshirt junior is everything a coach is looking for and the epitome of modern basketball.
“Her athleticism and height allows her to be extremely versatile and that’s kinda one of the things we look at on the NBA level,” Griffin Sr. said. “Can a player play multiple positions? Can they defend multiple positions? So when you look at Aubrey, she’s defending guards, she’s given the toughest assignments on the best scorers, you find her sometimes defending fours when the team goes small.”
On the other end, Griffin’s offensive value is two-fold. As previously mentioned, she excels out in the open court, coupled with her effectiveness as a cutter and ability to generate self-created paint touches.
Additionally, another sticking point for low-usage off-ball wings like Griffin is to make quick decisions with the basketball and play your role, evident by her solid 15.7% turnover rate.
“She has a good feel for making the right play or the best play at times,” Griffin Sr. said.
This season, she has seen her role quickly increase to upwards of 35 minutes per game due to the absence of Paige Bueckers (knee), Azzi Fudd’s injury troubles, Caroline Ducharme’s battle with concussions, and plenty more. Griffin has taken full advantage of her extended opportunity, posting averages of 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists on a remarkable 64.4% true shooting.
“Aubrey is capable of having big, big games, you know, she can do it defensively, I thought her work on the offensive boards was terrific,” head coach Geno Auriemma told SNY’s Maria Marino following its 103-58 road win over Seton Hall in January. “When she’s confident with her shot, she opens up another side of the floor for us, especially now without Caroline [Ducharme] and Azzi [Fudd].”
Griffin’s confidence as a shooter is massive for UConn and her development alike. She has made some worthwhile progression from beyond the arc, upping her 3-point percentage from 13.3% through her first two collegiate seasons to 31.9% as a redshirt junior.
“She’s extending her range, shooting threes, again, she’s an underrated shooter,” Griffin Sr. said. “She is shooting 80% or above from the free-throw line, which’s a good indicator for her potential to continue to develop and become more consistent from the 3-point line.”
Griffin has yet to make an official decision on whether she’ll return to UConn next season but she won’t participate in senior day on Feb. 27, according to Auriemma. Though when Griffin ultimately decides to enter the WNBA Draft, the versatile wing will be on every team’s draft board.
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