Looking at the Twitter account Duke freshman AJ Griffin, it is not immediately obvious he is a five-star recruit at one of the most storied programs in college basketball. A retweet of a congratulatory post from his dad — Toronto Raptors assistant coach and former NBA player Adrian Griffin — is the only major clue.
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But almost the entire first line of Griffin’s bio is reserved for identifying himself as a follower of Christ and giving glory to God. All seven tweets he’s sent this year are focused on his faith — including one sent Saturday night after the forward poured in a team-high 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting against Arkansas to send head coach Mike Krzyzewski to his 13th Final Four:
All Glory to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ❤️🙏🏾
— AJ Griffin (@whoisAG21) March 27, 2022
One of the few teams in the country relying heavily on freshman, Duke is playing some of its best basketball after losing its regular-season finale to archrival North Carolina and the ACC Tournament title game to Virginia Tech.
“You know, we never doubted as a team, a young team too,” Griffin said after the Arkansas game. “Just, we knew what we were capable of, and we just wanted to show the world. We got hungry guys and like I said, we just want to show the world, and we knew what we were capable of.”
#AJGriffin 18 PTS, 3 REB, 1 BLK Highlights vs Arkansas | Elite Eight #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/ahenZp9XlC
— DukeLights (@duke_lights) March 27, 2022
Still working his way back from a sprained knee he suffered in early October, Griffin was slowly eased into Duke’s rotation and started the season coming off the bench. He made his first start in a win at Wake Forest on Jan. 12 and scored 22 points. Griffin has started every game since.
He is averaging 10.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while knocking down 45.8% of his 3-point attempts, showcasing the elite shooting ability that makes him a projected lottery pick in June’s NBA draft should he decide to enter it. And he has reached double figures in three of Duke’s four NCAA Tournament games.
Yet, the most important impact Griffin’s had on this final group of players Krzyzewski will coach might not have anything to do with his on-court contributions.
“What AJ has brought to our program is a great belief in God,” Krzyzewski said earlier this month. “Because of him, the team has started a Bible study, and it’s because of him. He asked the guys to do it. He’s not nervous, he has it together more than most of us and I’m proud of him for it.”
He also often posts messages and thoughts on his TikTok account after reading the Bible:
Don’t be discouraged! Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong🙏🏾 #fyp #christiantiktok #holyspiritfilled
Injuries, however, are no small part of Griffin’s story. He missed his entire senior season of high school after hurting his ankle and then suffered the knee sprain before getting to take the court for Duke.
In those darker moments, Griffin relied heavily on his faith.
“I feel like everyone needs a relationship with God,” he told 247 Sports last month. “For me, I believe in Jesus Christ and what He’s done in my life; I want that to happen to others too. I was in a bad place when I was going through injuries, and He’s the one that helped me through it. He’s the one that got me out of that situation and really made me a better person.”
Awaiting Duke in the Final Four is none other than archrival North Carolina. It will be the third meeting between the teams this season and their first ever in the NCAA Tournament. They will play the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, which is scheduled to start at 8:49 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on TBS.
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– Brad Davison after Wisconsin career ends: ‘My identity comes from Scripture’