When AJ Griffin heard his name called during the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night, he had no shortage of friends and family there to celebrate alongside him.
Griffin, who grew up in Ossining, N.Y., starred at Archbishop Stepinac High School. And a majority of the Stepinac basketball program showed up at Barclays Center to support one of their own, watching from up close as Griffin became the school’s first ever first-round pick.
“That’s special, man, to have my coach there and to just feel the love from the community,” Griffin said. “I’m about to go get dinner with them. I just can’t wait to say what’s up and just enjoy this night with them.”
They had to wait longer to begin the celebration than some anticipated after Griffin fell to the Hawks with the 16th-overall selection.
Leading up to draft night, Griffin’s stock had fluctuated. Concerns lingered over his lengthy injury history. But, at the same time, Griffin’s potential proved tantalizing — he is a 6-foot-6 wing coming off a solid freshman season at Duke in which he averaged 10.4 points per game and shot 45 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
Griffin, who won’t turn 19 until August, has worked his whole life toward this moment. The youngest of three basketball-crazed siblings, Griffin grew up battling his brother, Alan, and sister, Aubrey. Both played Division I college basketball — Alan at Illinois and Syracuse, Aubrey at Connecticut — and AJ followed in their footsteps.
“We dreamed about that moment,” Griffin said. “I think it’s a memory I’m going to remember forever, and I’m sure they will, too.”
And Griffin honed his craft under the tutelage of his dad, Adrian, a former Seton Hall star and a 10-year pro who currently serves as an assistant coach for the Raptors.
“He gave me so much advice,” Griffin said when asked about his dad’s impact. “Just to be here today and just to share this moment with him, he just always told me the truth, always gave me the best advice a father could. I’m just truly grateful and blessed to have a father like him.”
Griffin can now work on carving out his own NBA legacy.