Sitting courtside, AJ Griffin could not assist himself. His thoughts his would wander, imagining himself on the NBA court docket throwing down dunks and hitting lengthy bounce pictures.
He was solely in third grade then, tagging alongside along with his father, Adrian, an NBA assistant coach.
“Going to the video games you see the behind the scenes stuff,” Griffin advised The Put up in a telephone interview. “Simply attending to see it early made my dream come alive. Being surrounded by basketball as your complete childhood it is exhausting to not fall in love with basketball.”
Quickly, that dream will change into a actuality, and it might occur near his Ossining, NY, residence. Griffin, a 6-foot-6 guard thought-about top-of-the-line shooters within the draft, may fall to the Knicks at 11, they usually have proven a big quantity of curiosity in him. The Knicks introduced him in for a person exercise, attended his professional day in Los Angeles and have put quite a lot of time into vetting him, in keeping with sources. Moreover, his father his, now the lead assistant with the Raptors, beforehand labored with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls.
Griffin is accustomed to a number of gamers on the staff, particularly RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin. He is met Barrett a number of instances and performed youth basketball with Toppin, a Westchester native like Griffin.
“That might be fairly cool to play in your hometown,” Griffin mentioned. “I performed in MSG two instances final 12 months, and it is simply an expertise like no different.”
Griffin is likely one of the extra debated prospects who’ve been invited to the inexperienced room, a projected lottery choose who was as soon as thought-about a lock to go within the prime 10. In response to a number of scouts, there are questions on his consistency and athleticism regarding his damage historical past.
He had again points as a sophomore in highschool, dislocated his left knee the next 12 months and suffered a sprained proper knee previous to this season at Duke. He was a part-time starter for the Blue Devils this 12 months, averaging 10.4 factors and three.9 rebounds whereas taking pictures 44.7 p.c from 3-point vary.
“There’s some concern with the accidents,” one scout mentioned. “However he’s 6-6 with a chiseled body and he shot 45 p.c from 3.”
The counterpoint to the criticism is Griffin was on a loaded staff that requested him to fill a selected position as a court-spacing marksman, Duke assistant coach Chris Carrawell mentioned. He had some monster video games: 27 factors in a rout of North Carolina, 21 in an ACC Event semifinal win over Miami, 18 within the Elite Eight towards Arkansas. Griffin did not have a senior season of highschool because of COVID-19, and handled the early knee damage this 12 months that slowed his progress.
“All the pieces has its timing and also you simply proceed to work,” Griffin mentioned. “I have been seeing progress.”
He added: “I really feel like I can present way more [than I did in college].”
ESPN faculty basketball analyst and draft guru Fran Fraschilla did not see the identical athleticism from Griffin at Duke as he did in highschool, however attributed a part of that to the accidents, and sees a particularly excessive ceiling for Griffin, who would not flip 19 till August.
“He positively has all the things you’d suppose you would wish for him to be an excellent NBA participant,” Fraschilla mentioned. “I simply suppose it should take a few years.”
Griffin has been across the recreation his whole life, and, because the youngest of three siblings, was pushed at a younger age. For years, he would lose to his older brother his, Alan, and sister, Aubrey. In addition they performed Division I faculty basketball, Alan at Illinois and Syracuse and Aubrey at present at Connecticut. It pressured him to work more durable and instilled a aggressive spirit in him.
Griffin was considered one of many prime prospects within the nation as a freshman at Archbishop Stepinac and was probably the most coveted recruits nationally when he dedicated to Duke. He is received at each stage, serving to Stepinac win a state championship as a freshman and the town title recreation the next 12 months, contributing to Duke’s Last 4 run final season and successful a gold medal with USA Basketball’s U-16 staff within the FIBA Americas whereas in highschool.
It is all been main up up to now — draft night time Thursday at Barclays Heart — when Griffin will change into the primary Stepinac alum to be a first-round choose and be a part of his father within the NBA.
“It’s going to be one like no different,” he mentioned. “Sharing that second with my household will likely be simply an incredible time and it is positively going to be a reminiscence I will not neglect.”