By AARON BEARD
Duke freshman AJ Griffin is heading to the NBA, becoming the fifth Blue Devils player last week to declare early for the draft.
The school announced Griffin’s decision on Sunday, the last day for players to declare themselves eligible for the NBA draft. Duke said the 6-foot-6, 222-pound winger was considered a potential lottery draft pick and was considering hiring an agent.
“It was a dream come true,” Griffin said in a statement. “My experiences have helped prepare me for this moment and I’m proud to know that I will be a blue devil for life.”
Griffin’s NBA move follows that of 7-1 second Mark Williams, 6-10 star rookie Paolo Banchero, 6-5 winger Wendell Moore Jr. and 6-5 guard Trevor Keels. Part of one of the nation’s top recruiting classes in Ossining, New York, Griffin is ESPN’s 8th-ranked draft prospect.
He averaged 10.4 points while providing size, outside shooting and defensive potential on the Blue Devils wing. This production came despite missing most of his final two seasons in high school due to knee and ankle injuries, as well as a preseason knee injury that slowed his recovery process. rhythm after prolonged absences.
His role grew as he became more comfortable returning to full-time acting. He entered the top roster in mid-January and never left, starting Duke’s last 25 games. He had 22 points on an 8-for-11 shot in his first start at Wake Forest, the first of five 20-point outings as a starter – the highlight being a 27-point turn in a win at rival Caroline from the North in early February.
Griffin made 71 of 159 3-pointers (44.7%), including 10 games as a starter with at least three 3s.
Griffin helped Duke achieve Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski’s record 13th Final Four, while winning the program’s first Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title since 2006.
“AJ was one of the best shooters in the country and his skills are exactly what NBA teams are looking for,” Krzyzewski said in a statement.
With Duke losing a lot of top talent as Jon Scheyer takes over for Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils will have guard Jeremy Roach – who announced his return earlier in the week and had a strong playoff run – in as the team’s top return scorer (8.6 points, 27 starts). Duke also has 247sports’ No. 1 recruiting class, with top overall prospect Dereck Lively II, compatriot Kyle Filipowski (No. 3) and small forward Dariq Whitehead (No. 5).
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