AJ Griffin grew up in Ossining, NY, played high school basketball at Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains and played for the New York grassroots team PSA Cardinals Nike.
Now, after his one-off season at Duke, the 6-foot-6-small forward knows there’s a chance his hometown New York Knicks could pick him as the No. 11 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
“Playing for the Knicks would be a dream come true,” Griffin said on a Zoom call Monday.
“Obviously I grew up here and I think it would just be a fun time in New York. I know the games and I know most of the players. It would be really, really, really good. I don’t know how I would feel about that [getting drafted by the Knicks.] I just know it would be exciting. I played at MSG twice last year, it’s just an experience like no other. It would just be an amazing experience.”
Despite overcoming a knee sprain earlier in the season, Griffin averaged 10.4 points and 3.9 rebounds on the touchline last season in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season while shooting a staggering 45 percent from deep.
“For us, he had to play a role where his shooting was a weapon,” said Duke assistant Chris Carrawell. “So, we told him, just be the best shot in the country. But as these next level guys see, they come to training, he can get out of hand.
“You get a kid who can shoot, he’ll be able to put the ball on the ground and create shots. His body, I don’t even know if he understands his body yet. He has a great physique and he has a physique similar to Jimmy Butler at that age. So his best basketball is still ahead of him.”
Adrian Griffin, AJ’s father, played at Seton Hall, played in the league for almost a decade and is now an assistant with the Toronto Raptors. Adrian was with AJ in the draft lottery in Chicago last month.
AJ’s mother, Audrey, was a track star at Seton Hall. His brother Alan played in Illinois and Syracuse, and his sister Aubrey plays for women’s powerhouse UConn.
“I always say that, I always say, take the pro kid,” Carrawell said. “It’s in the genes, man. Take the pro kid. If your father played in the NBA and we recruit the boy, take him. Worst case scenario he’ll be a 1,000 point scorer and best case scenario you’ll get the likes of AJ Griffin, Seth Curry, Dunleavy, these guys are hard workers, low maintenance, have high basketball IQs and he did all of this while he was Missed high school for a year and a half. He missed a lot of time, so he has his best basketball still to come.”
AJ knows the Knicks brass and players.
On the night of the draft, Knicks President Leon Rose, GM Scott Perry and Vice President William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley stopped to greet him and his father in a hallway.
Griffin is also familiar with the Knicks wing RJBarrett, which was also a one-and-done at Duke before becoming No. 3 overall three years ago.
“I’ve met RJ once or twice,” Griffin said. “We talked for a while. Basketball always keeps you connected. It’s more of a mutual friendship.”
He added: “I think just by watching him play and the way he plays, I think we could be a good match. I know he likes relieving and coming downhill and getting aimed shots. We’re from Duke and we just got this Duke connection. I think it would be cool to play with him and we would really complement each other’s games.”
Aside from the Knicks, Griffin has worked for San Antonio, New Orleans, Portland and Indiana. The Knicks were his youngest.
“It was great, it was a good practice, my last,” he said. “It was good training.”
Griffin is one of five Duke players in this year’s draft who is attempting to have Kentucky as the most first-round pick by a school (2010).
“Going through this process with my teammates is definitely a rare and fun experience,” he said. “You don’t normally get four other guys drafted on the same night. It’s not only fun for me, but also for my teammates. Going through this process together builds that bond even more and I think they’re just excited to see where they’re going.”