You have seen Rashard Griffith slam the ball home with authority. You've seen him guard the middle, effortlessly swatting away shots while smaller opponents sigh in frustration.

But Griffith has a confession to make:

"There was a time when I couldn't do anything," he says.

That was back in 7th grade, when a tall (6 feet 7 inches), awkward kid first picked up a basketball at Marcus Garvey Grammar School on the city's South Side and decided to give the game a whirl.

"I didn't even like it at first," Griffith says, thinking back to his introduction to the sport that has given him some notoriety.

"My grandmother said, `How do you know if you'll like something unless you try it? I tried it. I liked it."

And what followed for Griffith has been a storied route through high school basketball.

He went into King High School as a highly touted 8th grader, helping the Jaguars to a state title as a freshman in 1990. Now, 113 victories later, he is preparing to leave King having led the Jaguars to another state title and an award that closes the book on quite an impressive high school career.

Who else could be the 1993 Mr. Basketball of Illinois?

"Everybody's not ignorant, you know," says King coach Landon Cox.

Cox has company on this one.

Griffith won this year's award, which is presented annually by the Chicago Tribune and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, outdistancing Westinghouse guard Kiwane Garris and Tyrone Nesby, a junior guard at Cairo High School.

In the voting by the state's basketball coaches and media members, Griffith received 1,329 points, including 221 first-place votes out of the 422 ballots returned. Garris, who is headed to the University of Illinois, ended up with 630 points. Nesby finished with 290.

Griffith will receive the award at the IBCA Hall of Fame banquet on April 24 at Illinois State University in Normal.

Griffith became the third King player to win the award in the last six years, joining Jamie Brandon (1990), now at Louisiana State University, and Marcus Liberty (1987), a forward with the NBA's Denver Nuggets.

Not bad company for a guy who had no interest in the sport to begin with.

"I hated it," Griffith says with a laugh.

That was until Griffith realized he could become quite good at it. That revelation came during the summer before he entered 8th grade. Griffith attended a basketball camp at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he realized he not only was taller than the rest of the kids but also had the potential to become a pretty good player.

"I just sort of blossomed from there," Griffith says.