BEST COLLEGE ATHLETE - 2005
A year ago, the Gopher men's basketball team had hit rock bottom in the basketball food chain. The Timberwolves were driving toward a possible NBA championship, the Gopher women were on their way to the Final Four. Even the addled Lynx, long mired in mediocrity and plagued by personnel changes, were more familiar to local hoops fans. By the middle of this season, all of that had changed, and the U of M--with a roster of anonymous players--was suddenly in the throes of March Madness. Impossible. The surprise transformation simply would not have happened without Vincent Grier, a Charlotte, North Carolina, native who played last season at a junior college in Utah. Grier was noticeable from the start of the season, with the Pippi Longstocking braids he wore, Sprewell-style. (He shed the locks halfway through the season--a move Spree should have followed.) But soon the more salient impression of Grier was that of a defensive stalwart and slashing driver who had an unorthodox left-handed shot. A pivotal moment came in a mid-season game at Ohio State, with the Gophers down by eight in the late minutes. The 6'5" junior, who plays guard and forward, single-handedly made up the point difference, and the team bagged a brutal Big Ten road win at a crucial point in the schedule. By the end of the season, Grier was named to the first team all-Big Ten, and the Gophers were hanging tough against number-one rated Illinois in the conference tournament. A failing program had been resuscitated seemingly overnight.