Winter 2022 magazine

AJ Griffin drafted 16th by Atlanta Hawks, carries strong faith into NBA

Sharpshooter AJ Griffin was projected by most analysts to be a lottery pick (Nos. 1-14) in the 2022 NBA Draft, but the Atlanta Hawks were able to snag him at No. 16 on Thursday night. The former Duke Blue Devil follows in the steps of his father, Adrian, who spent nine seasons in the NBA.

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Griffin and No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero were part of the last recruiting class for legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, who retired after the 2021-22 season. Griffin, a 6-foot-6 wing player, sprained his knee in October, which resulted in him coming off the bench to begin the season. He got his first start on Jan. 12 at Wake Forest and scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

Griffin averaged 10.3 points during the regular season as the Blue Devils won the ACC with a 16-4 conference record and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He put up a team-high 18 points in Duke’s victory over Arkansas in the Elite Eight that set up a meeting with arch-rival North Carolina in the Final Four.

The Ossining, New York, native shot 44.7% from 3-point range and 49.3% from the field in 39 games for Duke. And though he was only in Durham for a matter of months, Griffin made it a point to share his faith in Christ with his teammates.

“What AJ has brought to our program is a great belief in God,” Krzyzewski said in March. “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.”

In his Instagram post announcing he would be entering the NBA draft, Griffin made a video that began with him thanking God for allowing him to play basketball at the highest level.

Griffin also wrote in the caption, “All Glory to God,” while adding a praying hands emoji.

 

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A post shared by AG21❄️ (@adrian.griffinjr)

Griffin is extremely active in sharing his faith on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, mentioning it in his bio on each social media platform. He regularly posts videos on TikTok discussing what it means to be a Christian and highlighting different Bible verses. One recent video focused on spiritual warfare.

“I just want to encourage you and tell you to keep pushing, to keep on putting on that full armor of God, to keep on showing up every single day and trust in God because that breakthrough is coming in the name of Jesus,” Griffin said in the video.

@ajgriffin_21

Put on the full armor of God🙏🏾🛡#fyp #spiritualwarfare #christiantiktok #breakthrough

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Griffin missed his entire senior season of high school with an ankle injury and then suffered the knee injury before he could take the court for Duke. God used those experiences, he said, to strengthen his relationship with Christ.

“I feel like everyone needs a relationship with God,” he told 247 Sports. “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.”

Griffin joins a Hawks team hoping to recapture the excitement of their run to the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago. Last season, Atlanta went 43-39, won two play-in games and earned the No. 8 seed before losing to the Miami Heat in the first round.

He is likely to make his professional debut in the NBA Summer League, which begins July 7. Atlanta’s first summer-league game is against the Utah Jazz on July 9.

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