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Thursday, January 28th, 2010
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Mendon's Griggs was an offensive force
One More Curtain Call
When he was a freshman at Mendon-Union High School in the winter of 1969-70, Mike Griggs was listed in the starting rotation of his first three basketball games before his re-designation to the role of bench player for the remainder of the season.
"Although I was fine physically, I just wasn't where I needed to be maturity-wise from a mental standpoint," Griggs willingly admits. "I still saw action in every game except for our one tournament game. Over the season, I averaged about four points per game, but realized that I needed to get stronger in all aspects of my game in order to succeed in the next three years."
His off-season focus included countless hours on the concrete courts behind the now-razed Mendon-Union High School - an investment that helped his maturation take on atomic proportions.
As a sophomore, Griggs not only re-established himself as a starter for the full season, his 22.8 ppg. led the team and county in scoring, an average that was highlighted with a 40-point game as well as topping 30 on two other occasions.
"I spent a lot of time that offseason working on so many different aspects of my game," commented Griggs. "I gained a lot of confidence in myself and through natural maturation, I was able to really develop myself steadily through the rest of my career."
Mendon averaged 82 points per outing that season, Griggs, along with teammates Jon Shindollar (21.3) and Scott Garwick (15.8) led the Pirates to an 11-9 regular-season record.
The postseason began on a promising note, as Griggs hit for 28 points in a victory over the Parkway Panthers. Their tournament aspirations came to a crash though a few nights later when the St. Henry Redskins dealt them a defeat which ended their year at 12-10.
"My sophomore year, I was still just a young kid, but we had decent experience returning so it helped me to be much more comfortable," Griggs recalled. "I remember how we loved to get up and down the floor and we started the year very strong with this philosophy. After a while though, teams started to catch on to our game plan and did what they could to take us out of it."
The next season was one of transition for the Pirates with Dave Esmonde - their third head coach in three seasons. This, combined with little returning experience, led to a dismal 6-15 mark at the end of the year. Although his team struggled mightily, Griggs didn't miss a beat offensively, finishing the season with an average of 21.5 points and becoming the first underclassman to win Player of the Year honors in the Mercer County League.
In the closest "Double Digit Derby" race in the history of The Daily Standard's weekly contest, Griggs edged Fort Recovery's Kevin Dilworth in the final two games of the season, as he passed the 400-point mark for the second year in a row. Dilworth and the Indians however, ended Mendon's season in the sectional opener by handing them a 19-point defeat, a battle in which Griggs chalked up 17 points.
He ignited his senior campaign by uncharacteristically chalking up just 14, 16 and 15 points in his first three outings, but after that he caught fire and never looked back. Griggs blew through the last 17 regular-season games, never dipping below 20 points per game and draining 30 on two occasions.
His heroics on the court helped him conquer a feat never established before and only once since: winning the county scoring title three seasons in a row, as he finished with an average of 23.5 ppg.
The Pirates opened the sectional tournament at Van Wert against their rival Parkway, and although Griggs fired up 24 points, his Pirates were promptly eliminated by a final of 76-64.
"Once tournament rolled around and we faced Parkway again, I knew it would be a tough game," Griggs admitted. "They had been on a down swing for several years and we split with them during the regular season. Ron Niekamp was their first-year head coach and he had a great game plan for his team. It's never pleasant to have your career end, but especially when it is to such a strong rival."
As his career in Mendon wound down, Griggs finished with 1,524 points, which still sits as the sixth best in league history. While his basketball talents were observable, Griggs' was also a 4.0 student and co-valedictorian of his class, a formula which earned him a scholarship to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
He starred on the basketball court for four years before finishing his career with 1,152 points and 282 assists, fifth and third respectively all-time at the school when he graduated. Following his senior season in 1976-77, he earned all-league honors as the Engineers finished with a 24-4 overall record after being knocked from the NCAA quarter-finals by eventual Division III champion Wittenberg. Griggs was elected to the school's athletic Hall of Fame in 1996.
Following college, Griggs landed a job with Proctor and Gamble and has lived in the Cincinnati area since 1979. He currently works for Chester Packaging, where he is the Director of Materials Management. Although he tucked his basketball sneakers away for good after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a recreational game in 1986, he and his wife Karla (Burtch) still take pleasure in the sport through their sons.
"Our oldest son Adam is the junior varsity boys coach at Sycamore High School in Cincinnati while our second oldest, Matt, is a freshman playing at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, after a successful career at Indian Hill High School. Centre is also where my brother Scott, a 1975 Mendon-Union graduate, played basketball," Griggs pointed out. "Andrew is a junior at Indian Hill and is a National Merit Scholar, while our youngest, Jon, is a freshman on the basketball team at Indian Hill."
While the now-defunct Mendon Union isn't noted for historically exceptional basketball teams, their individual talent can't be denied, and Griggs is a major cog in that aspect.
"When I was growing up Bob Howell (36.2 points per game in 1968 at Mendon), who went on to play at Ohio University, was my idol," Griggs professed. "I never quite made it to his level, but he definitely inspired me to practice hard and give it all I had. A few years later, I played with Dennis Miller (24.2 points per game in 1970), and it gave me the opportunity to watch and learn and overall it helped me to be a better player all the way through my career."
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