The 6-foot-8 Baylor senior became only the third player to be a two-time unanimous choice on The Associated Press’ women’s basketball preseason All-America team, receiving all 40 votes from a national panel Tuesday.
Griner joined former Connecticut star Maya Moore and Duke great Alana Beard in that select club.
“It’s definitely an honor. I’m humbled by it, to be a part of that group,” Griner said. “That’s just awesome.”
Griner wasn’t the only unanimous choice on the preseason team. Delaware senior Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame senior Skylar Diggins were also on all 40 ballots. Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike (23 votes), Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas (19) and Baylor’s Odyssey Sims (19) rounded out the squad. It’s the first time there’s been a tie for the final spot since the team began in 1995-96.
Only five other players have been unanimous selections – Courtney Paris, Chamique Holdsclaw, Diana Taurasi, Seimone Augustus and Candace Parker.
Griner and Sims are the sixth set of teammates to be on the preseason team. They helped Baylor go undefeated last season en route to the school’s second national championship. The pair have the Lady Bears back at No. 1 in the preseason Top 25 poll.
“Winning the championship validated without question Griner’s impact on the women’s game,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “Did she need that championship to be considered the best player to ever play? I don’t think so, but a lot of people do.”
Griner is coming off a tremendous season. She averaged 23.2 points, shot nearly 61 percent from the field and blocked five shots a game.
Sims also had a strong year, averaging 14.9 points and 4.4 assists to go along with three steals.
The All-America duo helped Baylor knock off Diggins and Notre Dame in the title game in April. Diggins led the Irish to the past two NCAA championships games and last season helped them to their first regular season Big East championship. She averaged 16.8 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Diggins, who was on the preseason team last year as well, is the first Irish player ever to make the squad twice.
“It means a lot. We’ve had a lot of great players come through here,” Diggins said. “There are a lot of great players in the country and it’s truly an honor to be considered an AP All-American. This is truly a dynamic team we definitely wouldn’t lose many games.”
Delle Donne became the first player from a non-BCS conference to earn preseason All-America honors since Amanda Wilson (Louisiana Tech) in 1998-99. She led the nation in scoring last season, averaging 28.1 points and helped the Blue Hens to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“It’s an amazing honor to be part of that group and to be mentioned among the great players who are on that list,” the 6-foot-5 Delle Donne said. “But it is only the preseason and we all have to prove ourselves and we all have a lot of work to do to get where we want to be.”
Diggins won a gold medal this summer with Ogwumike at the 3-on-3 World Championship.
“She’s one of my favorite people to play with, she’s so athletic, great basketball IQ,” Diggins said of her USA basketball teammate. “She’s so smart she can play with anybody and is relentless on the boards.”
Ogwumike helped Stanford reach its fifth straight Final Four before the Cardinal lost to Baylor in the semifinals. She averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and shot 58 percent from the field. She’ll be asked to do more now that her sister, Nneka, who was an All-American last season, graduated.
“I’m very honored to be considered by the voters alongside this extremely talented group of women. I’m looking forward to the new season as my teammates and I grow tighter together and continue to establish our team identity.”
Thomas was also supposed to be on that 3-on-3 team, but couldn’t play because she was ill this summer. She’s fully recovered now and raring to go.
“She’s a workhorse, working so hard on the boards,” Diggins said of Thomas. “Her offensive rebounding hurts a lot of teams and she does the little things for her team.”
Thomas averaged 17.2 points last season to help Maryland reach the NCAA tournament regional finals.
“Preseason honors are great and they show respect for our team and what we did last year. We just want to get the season started and pick up on where we left off.”
Griner, Delle Donne, Diggins and Thomas were all on the postseason All-America team. Ogwumike and Sims earned second team honors.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.
Follow Doug Feinberg at http://twitter.com/dougfeinberg.