“Building a program here is sort of like a dream come true. I was really fortunate to come back after six years of coaching experience and get to do it the way I envisioned,” said Megan Griffith, beginning her third year as the head coach of Columbia University women’s basketball. Griffith played her college basketball at Columbia, graduating in 2007. Her college years were a tumultuous time for the Lions, with four head coaches in four years.

“We have great support,” said Griffith, who is intent on creating a winning program and her players having great experiences and a lasting sisterhood. “I always thought it would be special and I’m just blessed I have the opportunity to come and do it myself.”

It’s a young team, and the players are eager to make their marks. Lone senior Abby Lee said it’s been exciting to see the program progress from year to year. The team’s identity is EDGE, which stands for energy, discipline, grit and excellence.

Junior guard Janiya Clemmons chose Columbia because her uncle, who is an alum, spoke so highly about the university. A computer science major, she is thriving on the academic rigor while also enjoying the challenge of building a winning program.

“Right now I’m looking for internships in software engineering,” said Clemmons, who hopes to ultimately combine her sports background with computer science. “One thing I really love about being the underdog is you have to work for everything that you’re going to get.”

She added, “I want to make an impact. I want to help change the culture and change the system. That’s really what Coach G has believed in from day one and I believe in what she sees and in the program. So, I’m happy to be here and help plant the seed for the future.”

Freshmen Mikayla Markham and Sienna Durr are both settling into the routine of being student-athletes. They are excited to help build a program. “I want to bring intensity and have an impact,” said Markham, a guard.

“The biggest thing for me was to go somewhere with a lot of diversity, really good academics and a good basketball team,” said Durr, a guard/forward who is pre-med. Columbia meets all her requirements. “I’m really excited to help build this team. We’re young and we’re hungry.”

Columbia opens its season Friday at Hofstra University. The first home game is Monday night versus Army.