Heritage Academy senior Moak Griffin reaches for a rebound in a game against Starkville Academy earlier this season. Griffin played a key role in victories against Winston Academy and Hartfield Academy last week. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch
February 5, 2019 10:32:02 AM
Name your poison, Moak Griffin will deliver it.
The Heritage Academy senior can outscore you if he needs to, either from the perimeter or with strong moves to the basket. The multi-sport standout is equally capable of controlling a game with his rebounding or with his playmaking ability.
Griffin's versatility stems from the fact that he has been playing multiple sports -- football, basketball, golf, and more -- since he was little. It's not surprising that some of his coaches have encouraged him to be a member of the school's track and field team.
That possibility will have to wait at least a few more weeks because Griffin and the Heritage Academy boys basketball team have work to tend to in their "third season."
Griffin helped Heritage Academy make a final push to end the regular season on a strong note by averaging 13.5 points, four rebounds, and four assists in victories against Winston Academy and Hartfield Academy last week.
For his accomplishments, Griffin is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
"He is an outstanding basketball player," Heritage Academy boys basketball coach Russ Whiteside said. "Unfortunately, this late in his senior season is the first time we're actually getting to see it because of all of the injuries he has had to overcome."
Griffin's injuries -- back and anterior cruciate ligament -- have been well documented. His knee injury denied him an opportunity to contribute on the court to Heritage Academy's run to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA State title. This season, a hand injury suffered against Starkville Academy and a sprained left ankle in his first game back against Magnolia Heights have forced Griffin to miss about a month of the campaign. As the postseason begins, Griffin said he is healthy and the Patriots are primed to make a long run in the playoffs.
"It is team first. We break it down with 'together,' " Griffin said. "Nobody really cares about assists or points or rebounds. We just kind of all play together. I just do whatever I need to for my teammates.
"I just try to come to practice each day and try to work my hardest and set an example. I think I have been doing an all right job. There is always room for improvement."
Top-seeded Heritage Academy (23-4) will take on the winner of the game between Winston Academy and Starkville Academy at 5:15 p.m. Thursday in the MAIS Class AAA, District 2 tournament at Leake Academy. The winner of that game will advance to the tournament's title game Saturday.
Heritage Academy will play host to the Class AAA North State tournament next week.
In December, Griffin earned defensive MVP in the MAIS Senior All-Star football game. He had two interceptions and caught a touchdown pass to help his White team earn a 24-22 victory against the Blue team. Griffin also had at least five pass breakups and multiple tackles. His 52-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter helped his squad rally from a nine-point deficit.
Griffin's time at safety in the All-Star game marked a return to the position he played in the regular season for the Patriots before he moved to outside linebacker, where he helped solidify a defense that proved to be stingy in a run to a MAIS Class AAA, District 2 title.
Whiteside, who is the defensive coordinator on the school's football team, said Griffin is finally getting in basketball shape. He said it has taken a little while for Griffin to get into "basketball mode," but he said that hasn't prevented the 6-foot standout from impacting the action in a lot of ways.
"He may come out one night and have assist numbers of a point guard," Whiteside said. "He may come out and have scoring numbers of a two guard. He may have rebounding numbers of a four-five guy. He does a lot for our team in every facet of the game. He guards well. His on-ball defense is really good, and the kind of leadership he gives you really can't replace."
Whiteside said the leadership Griffin provides is based on a "team-first" approach. He credited Griffin for being on the bench last season and providing a lot of energy for his teammates in the run to the championship. This season, Griffin is delivering that spark on the court. Whiteside there is no telling how good of a basketball player Griffin could be if he was healthy and he focused on that sport.
"He is an unbelievable athlete," Whiteside said. "He could probably go out there and compete in track and field if he wanted to. He could probably go out there and play baseball if he wanted to. He just has that kind of God-given ability and athleticism that not many people have.
"He could do whatever he wanted (if he was healthy and he concentrated only on basketball). I am not going to sit here and say he is a college basketball player because he just hasn't played. If that was something that he decided -- with no injuries -- that he was going to concentrate on, he is pretty driven in everything he does, and competitive, so if all of that fell into place and he wanted to do it, he could probably go do it."
Griffin said he is most proud of the fact that he plays with a lot of heart and leaves it out on the court. That emotion might have bubbled over when he injured his hand against Starkville Academy. Griffin offers a slight smile as he acknowledges that was his fault, but he said he is glad he is healthy again and set for a productive "third" season in what has been a busy senior year.
"This is where our hard work and our practice is going to show off," Griffin said, "and I think we can do some special things."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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