By Chris Gionta
On Dec. 2, 2021, the Springfield Central High School football team won its third consecutive state championship. That game highlighted the coaching of Bill Watson, the excellent quarterback performance of MaxPreps’ Massachusetts High School Player of the Year, William “Pop” Watson III, and the outstanding showing of Boston College commit Joe Griffin at the wide receiver position.
Seven days later, they were all on the court for the first basketball game of the season; all with the same storybook season ending on their minds.
“Honestly, I want the state (championship) for basketball, too,” said Griffin.
Griffin’s ability playing each sport stands out tremendously. He was able to accumulate over 1,000 receiving yards in his senior football season, and he currently leads a strong Springfield Central basketball team in points scored. Along with amazing point-scoring, he carries an exceptional rebounding ability that resulted in 15 boards on Thursday night against Putnam at the Spalding Hoophall Classic at Springfield College.
His athletic ability makes it so that one sport can compliment the other.
“He’s got strong hands. You see him rebound with other people, he takes and rips the ball right away from them,” said Bill Watson, Central’s head basketball coach and offensive coordinator for the football team. “We see him win jump balls in football as well. He high-points the basketball and the football — goes up over everyone. And he’s very strong; very solid kid. He’s 6’4”, 205 pounds, and there’s not too much fat on him. So when you run into him, or have a collision with him, most people lose in those collisions.”
Griffin’s athleticism was on full display for the Blake Arena audience on Thursday night. He started the night with 12 points in the opening quarter. On defense, his head was consistently near rim-level attempting to block Putnam’s shots. Many of his points came after his own offensive rebounds as well, as he seemed to create his own offense.
In the fourth quarter with about two and a half minutes left to play, Springfield Central ran a play that showcased Griffin’s extraordinary athleticism once more. On a baseline play, Griffin came down the lane and received a pass only he could reach up for. With his head near rim-level again, he shot the ball with no one’s hands close enough to block it, and sunk it to add to his double-double night.
Watching Griffin on Thursday, it became clear why he would be able to excel at multiple sports. Not many at this level can match up with him athletically or skill-wise.
“(What stands out is) just his work ethic. I think when he’s on that floor, when he’s on that field, competing, I think he’s always going,” Bill Watson said.
Griffin excels at both sports because he loves and has an extreme passion for each of them. His love for both makes it easier for him to maintain the balance of being great at football and basketball.
“Even in my mind, when I want to give up, it’s just about pushing through,” Griffin said.
Watson didn’t say it himself, but his consistent relationship with Griffin as coach and player likely has also contributed to Griffin’s success.
“He’s been coaching us since third or fourth grade; football and basketball,” said Griffin. “So it’s like our system is installed already.”
It would be an understatement to say that Griffin will leave a solid mark in Springfield Central High School history. With outstanding football and basketball abilities, along with both team and personal accomplishments, Joe Griffin is a name that will not be forgotten anytime soon in Western Mass.