December 6, 2016

Webster men’s basketball negotiates tops-turvy season

At 28, Aaron Griffin is experiencing his first senior year. The 6-foot-7 forward from Farm Haven, Mississippi, missed his senior year at Velma Jackson High School because of academic reasons, so he’s found his “first” senior year to be a strange experience.

“I know that being a senior means being more vocal and being a leader,” Griffin said. “But I never played my senior year in high school, so this is really the first time I’ve got to be a senior on a team.”

Jordan Palmer / The Journal Aaron Griffin drives to the basket. Gtiffi has recorded four double-doubles in his last five games.

Jordan Palmer / The Journal
Aaron Griffin drives to the basket. Gtiffi has recorded four double-doubles in his last five games.

And in a larger sense, the year has been a strange one for the Gorloks. Webster opened up 7-3 in nonconference play before losing three of four conference games. Men’s Head Basketball Coach Chris Bunch said he was pleased with the team’s performance in nonconference play.

“I thought to be 7-3 at Christmas was a good start,” Bunch said. “Obviously losing three of four after Christmas was not so good.”

However, Webster did manage victories over previously unbeaten Greenville College on Jan. 10, and rival Fontbonne University on Jan. 17. Bunch said the proximity in the standings between Webster and Fontbonne added significance to getting a good result from the game.

Griffin scored 13 in the win over Fontbonne and recorded his fourth double-double, or game with double-digits in two different stats,  in his last five games.

Bunch said that Griffin came to him and said he wouldn’t mind if he scored a point as long the team won and that he felt concerned his best personal scoring stretch of the season coincided with several losses.

“It’s not because you’re playing better, that that’s why we’re losing,” Bunch said. “That’s not it. Those things are exclusive of each other. He’s (Griffin) done really well lately.”

Griffin is one of the most experienced players on the team while sophomore CJ Moore is one of the youngest to be featured regularly in the squad.

Last year, CJ Moore, a sophomore from Homestead Florida, averaged 2.7 points per game, and though he played in 25 games for the Gorloks as a freshman, his role has increased dramatically this season. This year, he has already notched 146 points and established an 11.2 points per game average. In the offseason Moore said he shot between 300 and 500 jump shots a day in preparation for his sophomore year.

Moore came to Webster partially because there are no division III athletic programs in Florida.  He has no familial connections to Webster but chose it because it felt like the “right place.”

“My parents and my girlfriend came up for the Greenville game,” Moore said. “It was the first time they actually saw me play (at Webster). It was very humbling and a blessing. I tried not to look at them in the crowd but I caught a glimpse of them and they were smiling and I started smiling, so I had to just stay focused.”

Further, he has chipped in with 30 rebounds on the year. Part of Moore’s ascendance unfortunately has been due to the injury to Kevin Miller, which has hampered him all this season.

Miller, a junior, led the Gorloks in rebounding last year, and finished second only behind Ahmad Smith in scoring. However, this year, Miller has yet to appear in a single game for Webster.

“Maybe there’s a slight chance he’ll come back.” Bunch said. “If I had to put a percentage on it (Miller coming back) I wouldn’t get up in the sixties or seventies yet. His knees are still in pretty bad shape.”

In Miller’s absence Griffin has had to revert to playing as the lone ‘big man’ on the court.

“Well, it’s really not a challenge to me,” Griffin said. “My first year coming in I really had to do it. I was basically playing the ‘five’ (center position) that year.”

The Gorloks are 9-6 overall on the year and remain fourth in the SLIAC. The top four teams from the conference advance to the conference tournament. Webster next travels to play Blackburn College on Wednesday Jan. 21.

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