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Monday, January 21, 2013
TAMU commit Griffin focused on future

By Sam Khan Jr.

ROSENBERG, Texas -- The first time Rosenberg (Texas) Terry basketball coach Michael Jackson saw Derrick Griffin, there were several things that went through his mind.

At the time, Griffin was an eighth grader, but his skills and athleticism were apparent. Though he was a football star, Griffin was also a basketball star and remains a dual-sport standout to this day -- a receiver for Terry's football team and forward for the basketball team, showing at times the ability to be dominant at both.

"[My first thought was] that he's incredibly athletic for an eighth grader," Jackson said of his first impression. "My next thought was that he could probably start on our varsity that year because we were pretty small."

At 6-foot-6, 228 pounds, the four-star tight end, who is the No. 33 player in the ESPN 150, has been successful both on the court and on the gridiron for Terry in his four seasons. The Texas A&M commitment plans to play both sports should he wind up in Aggieland. His passion for both sports is deep.

Derrick Griffin
ESPN 150 tight end Derrick Griffin excels on the basketball court and the gridiron.
Griffin said at first he was just a football player until he crossed paths with Aaron Harrison, Sr., the father of ESPN 100 twins Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison -- who are Kentucky signees and both among the top five basketball players in the 2013 recruiting class. Harrison convinced Griffin to give basketball a try and he's played with the Harrison twins since.

"He came and got me from football practice and that's when I started liking basketball," Griffin said. "I started getting better. I was probably in third or fourth grade then."

As he has grown, so has his game. Griffin shined over the summer at the AAU Super Showcase and has continued playing well for Terry after the completion of football season. In his most recent game, he put up a triple-double of 18 points, 15 rebounds and 12 blocks in a 68-53 win over Angleton (Texas) High School on Jan. 11 despite missing a large portion of the second half with a hand injury.

The injury, which Griffin originally thought was just a jammed finger, was later discovered to be a broken bone in his right hand, which has him in a cast and will keep him out a few weeks. Jackson noted that Griffin got three blocks with his left hand after the injury before leaving the game for good.

While Griffin's talents are easy to see on the court and the gridiron, the true challenge for him has been off the court. He came into this academic year with a lot of work to do in order to qualify to play Division I football and basketball, but Griffin refocused and has found some success in the classroom in the fall semester.

"[Last] semester was great," Griffin said. "I did everything I had to do. Now this semester right here, everything counts."

Griffin's coaches and teachers saw a significant improvement in his progress in the classroom.

"He made A-B honor roll last semester," Jackson said. "He took the initiative to take care of stuff on his own for the most part. He's definitely grown up a lot in that regard."

Griffin has even begun recently taking an after-school prep course for the ACT, which he's scheduled to take in February. When he took his official visit to Texas A&M on the weekend of Jan. 11, what he saw made him realize what he would miss on if he isn't able to qualify.

"I've got to do what I've got to do to get there," he said. "Anything I've got to do to get there."

Griffin admits that he is working harder now in the classroom than he did earlier in his high school career.

"At first, I was not doing anything," Griffin said. "Afterward, I realized what I had to do. Then I started doing all my work, started participating more and everything. Now, having seen how it was [at Texas A&M], I think 'Man, I can't miss this opportunity.' So I'm going to do whatever I have to do to get in."

Griffin discussed the possibility of double-signing with a junior college, perhaps Blinn College, in case things don't work out to get to Texas A&M initially. While Griffin showed improvement in the fall, there is still a long way to go.

"He's at the point where he's taking more responsibility for some of it," Jackson said. "I think he still has a long way to go to qualify. There was a point where I wasn't sure even if he was a juco [prospect] if he would be successful because you have to want to do something. But now I am to the point where I think he's grown up enough and matured enough to think that I think he'll make it and he'll eventually make it to a four-year school and be able to stay eligible.

"I think that no matter what happens, whether he qualifies or doesn't, he's to the point where I think he will be successful in college."

As for Texas A&M, Griffin said he remains solid with the Aggies but is planning on an official visit to Auburn this weekend. He also is considering an official visit to LSU. He said he plans to sign with the Aggies on Feb. 6, saying that he enjoyed his official visit to Aggieland thoroughly.

"I expected it to be like, I would just go there and just talk with the coaches and meet some of the players and that was it," Griffin said. "It was a lot of fun. We did a lot more than just that. We went everywhere with the players. My host was Edward Pope. We had a lot of fun with him."

He has built a good relationship with several Texas A&M commitments, including those he visited with and those he played with in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Fellow ESPN 150 prospect Ricky Seals-Jones is someone he has gotten to know well in recent weeks.

"I've been hanging with him," Griffin said. "We're like family already now, since I'm going to be on the team with them."

When it comes to participating in basketball and football in college, Griffin said he'll try to do both in his freshman year.

"I'm going to try both of them out my first year," he said. "Then if I feel like it's too much my first year then the next year, eventually, I'll pick one sport. If it's not too much, then I'm going to do both."

While he continues to excel on the hardwood, Griffin said his focus is off the court, in the classroom. His goal?

"Just get to A&M," Griffin said. "That's the only thing I want. Just to get into college, period."