When AJ Griffin heard his name called during the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night, there was no shortage of friends and family to celebrate alongside him.
Griffin, who grew up in Ossining, NY, played at Archbishop Stepinac High School. And the majority of the Stepinac basketball program showed up at Barclays Center to support one of their own, watching closely as Griffin became the school’s first-round pick.
“It’s special, man, to have my coach there and to feel the love from the community,” Griffin said. “I’m about to go out to dinner with them. I just can’t wait to tell what’s going on and enjoy this evening with them.
They had to wait longer to start the celebration than some expected after Griffin fell to the Hawks with the 16th overall pick.
Before draft night, Griffin’s stock had fluctuated. Concerns remained about his long history of injuries. But, at the same time, Griffin’s potential proved tantalizing – he’s a 6ft 6in winger who just finished a strong freshman season at Duke in which he averaged 10.4 points per game and shot 45% from beyond the 3-point arc.
Griffin, who won’t be 19 until August, has worked his whole life to achieve this moment. The youngest of three basketball-mad siblings, Griffin grew up battling his brother, Alan, and sister, Aubrey. Both played Division I college basketball — Alan in Illinois and Syracuse, Aubrey in Connecticut — and AJ followed in their footsteps.
“We dreamed of this moment,” Griffin said. “I think it’s a memory I will remember forever, and I’m sure they will too.”
And Griffin honed his craft under the tutelage of his father, Adrian, a former Seton Hall star and 10-year-old professional who is currently an assistant coach for the Raptors.
“He gave me so much advice,” Griffin said when asked about his father’s impact. “Just to be here today and just to share this moment with him, he always told me the truth, always gave me the best advice a father could. I’m really grateful and blessed to have a father like him.
Griffin can now work to shape his own NBA legacy.