COLUMBIA — After about the first five minutes of a game, when most of the starters are beginning to get fatigued, the Columbia College men's basketball team brings in Devin Griffin.
Griffin has scored twice as much as any other Cougars player in the team's first three games. Junior forward Marquette Murrell said Griffin is "pure energy."
Griffin, who is averaging 21.3 points per game, said he enjoys his role coming off the bench.
"I get to see what the other team has to offer — what they do and what they like to do — and see what each player's weaknesses are," Griffin said. "When I come in, I can pretty much exploit them to my best ability. At that time I'm at full energy."
Columbia College coach Bob Burchard said the game changes when Griffin comes in. Not only does the 6-foot sophomore present a scoring threat, but his enthusiasm and excitement spreads to the rest of the team and the fans.
At practice, hardly a play goes by without Griffin complimenting or encouraging a teammate. After throwing an alley-oop to Murrell at practice, Griffin shouted, "Yeah boy!" When a teammate missed a shot, Griffin told him, "You're all right."
"I like to get everybody going from the crowd, to the coach, to myself, even my teammates," Griffin said. "Even when we lose, I try to keep that same intensity all the time."
Burchard says one of the things Griffin does best is get steals. The coach said Griffin can anticipate passes and is quick enough to get to the ball before it reaches the intended target. At practice Wednesday, Griffin displayed his speed as he finished first in suicide runs with ease. He leads the team this season with 14 steals.
"He's just quick," Burchard said. "A lot of those (steals) are game-changing plays."
In the Cougars' first game, Griffin got a steal and dunk shortly after subbing in. He stood for a second under the basket and pumped his fist, shouting toward the fans. Murrell said that play turned the game around for the Cougars, who ended up winning by a large margin.
"He's just like a kid out there," Murrell said.
When Griffin isn't popping his mouthpiece in and out of his mouth during a game, he is often smiling. Burchard said he wants the game to be "a blast" and that Griffin always shows joyfulness when he plays.
"My main thing is just stay active and enthusiastic," Griffin said. "I think that builds the whole team."
Griffin and the 3-0 Cougars will travel to Deerfield, Ill., to play Taylor University at 4 p.m. Friday.