By J. Coyden Palmer
It’s official, Carver alum, Olympic Gold medalist, WNBA All-Star and South Side native Yolanda Griffith is headed to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Griffith, 51, is currently an assistant coach at Boston College. During her career, she played in the now defunct ABL and the WNBA, winning a championship in 2005 with the Sacramento Monarchs.
Griffith starred at Carver High School. She was named an All-American in both basketball and softball in her senior year at Carver and when she graduated, held the state record for homeruns hit by one player. But before she entered college, Griffith found out she was pregnant and gave birth to her daughter Candace. She had been set to attend the University of Iowa, but decided it would be too difficult to be a single mom and play at a high-level Division I school. She instead enrolled at Palm Beach Community College, before playing her final two years at Florida Atlantic University.
After graduating from FAU, Griffith, with Candace in tow, moved to Germany where she played for three years in the Euroleague, sharpening her skills. She then was the number one overall pick of the Long Beach Stingrays of the now defunct American Basketball League in 1997. Griffith was a dominant force in the ABL. She was named First Team All-League, she averaged 18.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.1 steals in the 1997-98 season along with being voted the ABL’s defensive player of the year, and finished second in the MVP voting. She led her team to the league championship.
Two years later, Griffith would be drafted second overall by the Sacramento Monarchs. While in Sacramento, Griffith became the face of the franchise and teamed up with Ruthie Bolton to form one of the best one-two combinations in the league. She was named the WNBA Rookie of the Year in her first season. In 2000 she was selected to the Olympic team and had a huge role in the team going 8-0 enroute to a Gold medal in Sydney, Australia.
Griffith would finish her playing career with 4,238 points, 2,444 rebounds and 323 blocks over her 10-year WNBA career. She retired after the 2009 season with the Indiana Fever. She was named a WNBA All-Star seven times. In 2016 she was named one of the Top 20 players in the history of the WNBA. Griffith will be enshrined on Sept. 11 in Springfield, Mass. along with other members of her class and the Class of 2020, which had their ceremony delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.