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October 10, 2012

The greatest vertical leap in Louisville history




Who are the greatest athletes in Louisville history? CardinalSports.com's Adam Donaldson spent hours speaking with Louisville strength and conditioning coaches to compile a group of SuperHuman athletes in UofL sports history. Who could jump the highest? Run the fastest? Lift the most weight?

Each article will highlight a particular athletic trait to which a UofL athlete has exceeded far beyond normal athleticism.

The first metric in our series on SuperHuman athletes answers the question: Which Louisville athlete could leap the highest?

THE TEST
The vertical jump is measured by how high an athlete can jump from a two-foot standing position, without running or stepping into the jump. Each athlete is measured from the tip of their extended arm. This technique of measuring makes the jumping distance equal, regardless of one's height.

Once this measurement is accurately taken, the athlete will bend their knees and with a thrusting motion of the arms, explode up and try and touch the highest prong they possible can.

WHY VERTICAL LEAP?
The ability to jump has a place in almost all sports. Whether it be jumping to catch a pass, a jumping event (track), dunking a basketball, hitting a volleyball serve or robbing a home run, leaping ability is a common factor in nearly every sport.

THE HIGHEST VERTICAL LEAP
Nicknamed the "Doctors of Dunk," the University of Louisville has had no shortage of amazing leapers.

According to coach Ray Ganong, who is entering his 26th season as a strength and conditioning coach at UofL, Terrence Williams, Louisville basketball forward from 2005-09, was recorded as having a 37-inch vertical.

To many that might seem low, but don't forget he was 6-foot-6 and has long arms. Williams was part of the 2009 Big East Championship team and was chosen with the 11th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

"I wasn't around for the Doctors of Dunk in the 1980s so Terrence Williams is the greatest dunker I've ever covered in person," CardinalSports.com's Howie Lindsey said. "He would regularly skim his head through the net while dunking."

Williams could fly. His NBA.com profile says so: "An athletic specimen with great size and strength, Williams uses his tremendous leaping ability and strength to overpower opponents and attack the rim."

Former baseball player Isaiah Howes (2004-07) holds the vertical leap record at UofL's Marshall Center. He's also got the highest vertical for all non-football and basketball players. Howes jumped 39.25 inches and was part of Louisville baseball's 2007 College World Series team.

GREAT FOOTBALL LEAPERS
Of current UofL football players, red-shirt sophomore fullback Jarel McGriff-Culver and DeVante Parker have both have recorded astonishing 41-inch verticals.

With his basketball background, Parker is no surprise on this list. He is a standout wide receiver who caught six touchdown passes as a freshman. At 6-3 with a 41-inch vertical, it is not hard to understand why he's such an effective threat on the field.

McGriff-Culver is more surprising. He only stands 5-11 and his position is not necessarily where you would expect to find players with big time hops, but he has extreme power in his legs.

CAN ANYONE MATCH GRIFF?
The greatest vertical leaper to ever step foot on Louisville's campus is basketball legend; Darrell Griffith.

Griffith was able to leap an unfathomable 48-inches off the ground. The speculation surrounding this number has been in question for decades. Did he step into the jump? What was the measuring tool?

"He brought a whole new art form to dunking," CBS analyst Tim Brando said of Griffith. "He's absolutely in my mind the No. 1 (greatest dunker of all time)."

"Here's a guy who was 6-foot-4 and could fly," former Atlanta Hawks star Dominique Wilkins said of Griffith.

But with all the research that has been conducted for this article, all numbers seem to point back to 48. Griffith played from 1976-80 and won a national championship in his senior season.

It doesn't get much more official than this: The LA Times reported that Griffith's 48-inch vertical was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1987.

Years ago, when Griffith was on the U.S. team at the World University Games in a Communist country, he was asked by the hosts to explain his amazing spring.

"I told them it was a God-given talent," he said then. "But they couldn't understand that, because they didn't believe in God."



Consider this: Griffith's Louisville record-setting vertical leap of 48 inches is quite a feat. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time and NBA Dunk Champion in 1987 and 1988, has had his vertical recorded anywhere from 44 to 48 inches. Griffith nicknamed, "Dr. Dunkenstein" and Jordan nicknamed, "Air," have both, with out a doubt, earned their aliases.

HIGHEST-LEAPING WOMAN
Meet our first female SuperHuman athlete: Chiamaka Omenyinma.

Omenyinma competed for the University of Louisville Women's Track & Field team from 2006-10. The Louisville native recorded a 30-inch vertical jump, the highest for a female in UofL history.

"She was a weight-room All-American," strength and conditioning coach Eric Hammer said.

A graduate of Louisville Waggener High School, Omenyinma was part of three Big East Outdoor Track & Field Championships from 2008-10. Although 30 inches might seem low in comparison to the legendary men's vertical leaps, Omenyinma's record is beyond impressive.

Consider this: The highest vertical leap we could find was WNBA star Deanna Nolan who recorded a 34-inch vertical leap. Nolan earned the nickname "Tweety" because of her extreme leaping abilities. She was a five-time WNBA All-Star and has three WNBA Team Championships rings.

THE SUPERHUMANS
Omenyinma and Griffith are the first members added to the University of Louisville's SuperHuman All-Stars. Stay logged on to CardinalSports.com for our next article where we take a look at UofL's greatest bench pressers.

BEST OF ALL TIME?
Kadour Zian of France has the highest vertical leap ever recorded with a measurement of 56 inches. The 5-foot-10 Algerian is a professional dunker. Without question there is speculation regarding his claims of a 56-inch vertical, but after watching video on Zian there is no questioning that the man can jump. He can do a cartwheel and then dunk without taking another step.



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