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Grigsby still holds national scoring average record


In 1977, McDowell (Kentucky) High School basketball player Geri Grigsby finished her illustrious high school career with a glittering national-record 46.1 points per game scoring average.

Some 35 years later, that mark still stands, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ National High School Sports Record Book.

The 5-foot-5 guard started her high school basketball-playing career at exactly the right time, and she made the most of it.

As a result of Title IX legislation passed by the federal government in 1972 along with legislation passed by the Kentucky General Assembly, interscholastic sports opportunities for girls resumed in Kentucky for the first time in nearly 40 years. The daughter of longtime basketball coach Pete Grigsby, Geri Grigsby grew up in an environment that was very conducive to her development as both a basketball player and an athlete.

In the fall of 1974, the 15-year-old Grigsby started her sophomore year of high school. That year, she scored 1,079 points, followed by efforts of 1,421 and 1,885 points in her junior and senior years, respectively. At the time, her three-year total of 4,385 was the national record and was the Kentucky state scoring record for both boys and girls. In addition, her single-season total of 1,885 points in 1976-77 still ranks as the national record in that category.

Along the way, she had single-game highs of 81 and 66 points. Her 81-point game still ranks fifth all-time.

Grigsby possessed a very well-rounded game as she also averaged seven rebounds and eight assists a game for the Daredevils, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line. She was equally outstanding in the classroom where she maintained a perfect 4.0 grade-point average for her entire 12 years of school, and was valedictorian of her senior class. Grigsby also embraced the performing arts, as she was a cheerleader and played saxophone in the school band.

A three-time first-team all-stater, Grigsby was named captain of the All-State team as a senior and was also chosen Miss Basketball in Kentucky that same year after being runner-up as a junior. In 1978, she was named Kentucky’s Sportswoman of the Year, and 10 years later, she was named to the first induction class of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. She has also been inducted into two other Kentucky halls of fame for athletes.

Following high school, Grigsby matriculated at the University of Kentucky (UK), where she played for three years before transferring to Western Kentucky University for her senior season.

After completing her undergraduate degree at UK, she earned a law degree from that same school. Her career in public service since that time has been unparalleled. During her career, she has been staff attorney with the Legislative Research Commission, senior attorney with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, associate counsel with the U.S. House of Representatives, chief of staff for the Senate Minority Caucus in the Kentucky General Assembly, and her current position of chief of staff to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock.

“I love my job,” Grigsby said. “I function similarly to a deputy secretary and oversee all of the non-engineering aspects of the center. I’m an advisor to Secretary Hancock and do all kinds of functions around the state.

“The work is very rewarding and I enjoy the challenge of getting things done. It’s a whole new experience of teamwork ‑ I work with very dedicated, talented people and I often refer to it as ‘basketball without the ball.’”

Although it’s been many years since Grigsby set the record, people still remember her as the high-scoring basketball guard.

“These days, I still get recognized at work and at games and they’ll ask me if I’m the basketball player,” Grigsby said. “It comes up daily in some form or fashion. Basketball is so special in Kentucky. Part of me, I didn’t want to be always known as the ballplayer. Now, I’m very comfortable that that’s part of my history.

“At the time, I was just happy to get the opportunity to play ball and make the most of the opportunity. I didn’t think much about the scoring or the record. Looking back sometimes, I wonder how I did that.”

In life, timing is often everything. For Grigsby, getting the opportunity to play high school basketball as a result of the passage of Title IX and subsequent Kentucky legislation proved to be very fortuitous.

“When I was a freshman, we knew it was going to take effect,” Grigsby said. “I think if it wasn’t going to happen, I was prepared to play on the boys team.

“I’ll never forget that first game. The gym was packed and people were curious if girls could play. For me, just getting the chance to play was more important than scoring a lot of points or setting a record. I was really blessed to have been born when I was and to have the chance to play.

“Being part of that first group, I felt like a trailblazer. There were some pretty darn good female basketball players out there. You felt like you were part of something special.”

With a father who was a longtime basketball coach, Grigsby grew up around the game and probably had greater insight into the intricacies the game than most of her peers.

“My dad was a huge influence on me,” Grigsby said. “I tell people that as a 10-year-old, I already knew what a ‘box-and-one’ was. Dad went from being a high school coach to Floyd County superintendent. He was always a strong supporter of Title IX.”

A lifelong fitness zealot, Grigsby embraced running and conditioning as a player and still maintains the fervor today.

“When I was in high school, we’d practice and then I’d run four to six miles afterward,” Grigsby explained. “I never wanted lack of conditioning to be an excuse for why we perhaps didn’t win a game. I think that my competitive desire and conditioning were my greatest assets. I was always moving and never still for a second.”

During her lifetime, Grigsby has received numerous honors and awards. Near the top of that list was her induction into the NFHS’ National High School Hall of Fame in 1993.

“Among my sports or professional recognitions, I would say that is one of the most special,” Grigsby said. “Most of my trophies are at my parents’ home. However, there are two or three items that I’ve got on my piano at home and one of them is this award. That shows how special it is to me.”

While most people would likely place holding a national scoring record at the top of their personal list of accomplishments, Grigsby maintains an ever-optimistic and forward-looking attitude.

“I think my greatest accomplishment is yet to happen,” she explained. “I always look forward to the next accomplishment coming up and always look forward to the next challenge.”

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