Benton's Griffin signs to play college basketball

Nate Griffin, a former point guard for the Benton Panthers, signed his letter of intent with North Central Community College on Friday.

“Nate (Griffin) has turned out to be a really fine young man. We are really proud of him,” Chris Nail, Head Men’s Basketball coach for the Benton Panthers said. “He was a two year all-conference, one year all-state player and a good tournament player. He’s had a great career for us and we are excited that he gets to pursue his education for free and play some basketball.”

As Griffin — who averaged 8.5 points, 5 assists and 3 steals per game — signed his name to the dotted line to play basketball for the Pirates, he said education was also an important process for determining his decision.

“In two years, I’ll have an associates degree and then move on to (a four-year school),” Griffin said. “I’m not sure what college I’ll go to from there. Anywhere that will let me come. I’m very excited about continuing my education.

His parents, Melissa Welch and McKinley Griffin said their son has plans to someday become a business man.

“He wants to major in business. He’s decided to open up a business selling different types of sports gear,” Melissa Welch Griffin said with smile. “I’m so excited. I’m real excited.”

The young Griffin, who recently was handed the Assists Statistical Award during the Benton Senior High Basketball awards ceremony, said he is also looking forward to meeting his new teammates.

“(NCCC) is a place away from trouble and I get to play again with my cousins Jordan Griffin and Eddie Poland,” he said. “I’m still going to play point guard, but I don’t know the type of system they play yet. We haven’t practiced (together) yet.”

He added of NCCC, “It’s not the biggest (facilities), but it’s pretty nice for a junior college. It’s pretty big to me and the community is nice.”

Just like any teen about to leave home for the first time, everyone’s emotions were mixed. Griffin said he’ll miss “my parents and Benton basketball” the most, as well as home-cooked meals. His mother joked about her plans for her son’s bedroom when he heads to Missouri.

“I’m going to miss him of course, but I’m kind of excited,” Melissa Welch Griffin said with a charming smile and laugh. “I told him I already have plans to turn his room into a weight room.”

McKinley Griffin added, “It’s going to be hard, I’ll miss him running around the house.”

Coach Nail continued to praise Griffin and believes there is a positive future ahead for the all-state player.

“(Griffin) was a good leader and did a good job for us,” Nail said. “He really grew up a lot after his sophomore year. He matured and we are proud of him.”

He added about the future without his star point guard, “I’ll start a new point guard that’s played three years for us. We feel we’ve got some guys that have done a real good job for us that can help. But (Griffin will) be missed both personally and on the court. He’s been kind of a fixture around here for three years. The kids will miss him, but we know he’s got a bright future ahead of him and he’s a bright kid.”

Griffin is the eighth Panther basketball player in the past five years to sign with a college university to play basketball.