Everybody loves a hometown hero. At the age of 22, Drameka "MeMe" Griggs has already achieved that status, and a lot more.
The leading scorer and, more importantly, the catalyst to the second-ranked, 24-0 Clayton State Lakers, Griggs is a graduate of nearby Jonesboro High School and a native of Ellenwood, Ga., just one town east from the Lakers’ Athletic & Fitness Center in Morrow, Ga.
In her three seasons at Clayton State (she spent her freshman year at Jacksonville University before finding her way back home) Griggs has established herself as a unique talent on the court. One of the fastest players you’ll never see until she picks your pocket with a steal on the Lakers’ full-court press, Griggs already owns a place on the 2011 Elite Eight All-Tournament team, a selection to the 2011-2012 Peach Belt All-Conference team, four Peach Belt Player of the Week honors during the current season (she’s the odds-on favorite to be the Peach Belt Player of the Year), and, most importantly, a national championship ring, earned in the Lakers’ successive 23 point, 17 point, and 19 point beat-downs in the 2011 Elite Eight in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Thus, the 5-5 senior guard has made a home at Clayton State, a 7,000-student University outside of Atlanta known as the place where dreams are made real, having first come on campus as a high school freshman, attending the summer basketball camps run by Coach Dennis Cox. While part of Griggs’ dream may have been to play collegiately for Cox, another part of her hometown experience is to play in front of her biggest fan, and her athletic hero while she was growing up, her mom, Waikeeta Flagg.
The secrets to the Lakers’, and Griggs’ success, are athleticism and speed, which Cox makes good use of in the Lakers’ 40 minute, end-to-end press. While Griggs’ hero is rightly her mother, it could also be Usain Bolt. And while she wears number 12 for the Lakers, it’s been said that it looks like she’s wearing 121212, because she’s so fast, her number’s just a blur. It’s certainly fitting that she went to high school in Jonesboro, since that’s the site of Tara in “Gone With The Wind,” something that’s happened to 23 other teams so far in the 2012/2013 season.
Combine speed, which helps her average a Peach Belt-leading 3.7 steals per game (ironically, she’s a criminal justice major), with a picture-perfect jump shot, and Cox has an offensive and defensive weapon that can turn any game around in minutes. To put it another way, Griggs is the type of player who can dominate a game at the key moments.
“MeMe is such a dynamic player. Everything changes when she steps onto the floor,” says Cox. “She is definitely playing at a very high level right now – the best basketball of her career. She is also a great teammate and leader, being a captain in her senior season. She has been fun to watch, and it is an added bonus that she has gotten to do it in front of her friends and family.”
Family means a lot to Griggs, especially her hero and biggest fan.
“My mom is my everything. She is definitely my hero, my angel, my protector, my best friend, my biggest fan, and even my biggest enemy at times,” she says. “Enemy you might ask? When everyone is walking about telling me how good I am or how great I played, she's telling me how bad I actually played or how humble I must remain. It seems a little harsh, but it motivates me. No one knows my true potential like my mom. Like any other parent, she knows her child better than anyone on this Earth.
“Growing up, I heard my mom was star softball player and really good basketball player, but she didn't have that driving force, or that extra push or even the parental guidance she has provided me with that I cherish so much. It's always a blessing to have her around. But now, more than ever, each day I step on the court I'm reminded through prayer that I do this all for her as a small token of appreciation in hopes of making her proud.”
Griggs certainly made mom proud during the Lakers’ 83-51 Homecoming win over the University of Montevallo, the second place team in the Peach Belt’s western division. The Lakers ripped off two utterly devastating runs in the game, outscoring the Falcons 21-2 and 21-3 respectively, with Griggs getting 16 of her game-high 23 points during those 12 minutes of play.
That performance didn’t surprise Laker fans, since Griggs also took over the game, as great players will do, in Clayton State’s two road wins over nationally-ranked teams. In the Lakers’ 56-50 win over then-third-ranked USC Aiken, Griggs scored 20 points and added nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. Significantly, with the game tied at 50 in the last minute, she tallied two assists, two rebounds and the final two points of the game, personally accounting for the six points that made the difference at the end.
Then, in the Lakers’ 67-54 win at 23rd
-ranked Augusta State, Griggs scored 18 of her 23 points and added four rebounds, two steals and two assists in the second half
, bringing the Lakers back to a 13 point win from an 18 point deficit with less than 18 minutes to play.
“MeMe Griggs – as she so often does – took over the game in the final minutes,” said Cox after that one.
Her ability to take over a game, to carry her team, is extraordinary. When Griggs and the Lakers get rolling, it sometimes seems as if the other team is non-existent. However, Griggs says there’s no secret to streaks like that, or to carrying a team.
“Anytime you see those spurts, we've more than likely gotten yelled at for being lazy or maybe I've somehow managed to turn on what I like to consider my little secret `GO’ button,” she says. “I'm not sure there's a secret to carrying a team. As a senior leader, from the last game of your junior season to the last game of your senior season, you realize there is only ONE last chance to do something special. So in crunch times, I'm never called on to make those big plays. It's almost like an unwritten rule... it comes with being a leader and now it's just something I've learned to carry out. In those crunch moments, I think the only thing that goes through my mind is, `I have got to step up and make a play. If I don't then, who will?’"
Remarkably, Cox brings his star off the bench – she’s started just one game so far this season, although as a player on the way to setting the single season scoring record for one of Division II’s top women’s basketball programs, and possibly also getting the career scoring record at Clayton State as well, she’s hardly a secret weapon. Griggs currently stands 17th
nationally in scoring at 19.4 points per game (no other Laker is in double figures) on 54 percent shooting (second among all guards nationally), with 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, despite playing less than 29 minutes per game. Still, her statistics don’t tell the complete story, because she does get the game going up and down, triggering outbursts where she leads the fast break on one end, and keys a suffocating defense on the other end. One reason for Griggs’ relative inactivity is that the Lakers, one of the best defensive teams in the country (their opponents are shooting 33 percent and averaging just 53 points), have a winning margin of 20.3 points per game, second in the nation.
When she is on the floor, MeMe Griggs is often the smallest player of the floor… she’s also the smallest Laker. But, no one in the nation has a bigger effect on the game than this hometown hero, arguably the best guard in the country.