'I can do this:' NBA draft prospect AJ Griffin fueled by doubters originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
AJ Griffin may only be 18 years old, but the former Duke standout is sure he is ready to live out his dream in the NBA.
Despite his strong stance on entering the 2022 NBA Draft, others have doubted Griffin's readiness to move on to the pros. But that’s what’s fueling the 6-foot-6 small forward’s motivation.
“People saying, ‘Come back one year, you're not ready’ and stuff like that, that's when you're more motivated to prove to everyone that, ‘I can do this,’” Griffin told NBC Sports.
Griffin played one year of stellar basketball at Duke under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.
He started in 25 games, averaging 10.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. En route to the Blue Devils’ 2022 NCAA Final Four appearance, Griffin recorded 11 points and seven rebounds in the Sweet 16 against Texas Tech and scored a team-high 18 points in the Elite Eight versus Arkansas.
“They'll say, ‘Oh, you can't do this, you can't do that,’ and it's made me want to start working harder,” Griffin said.
Another reason the public has been questioning Griffin’s readiness is due to the time he has spent dealing with injuries. In high school, Griffin missed nearly two seasons after suffering knee and ankle injuries.
“[Watching the 2022 NBA playoffs] I definitely learned the intensity,” Griffin said. “It’s not just about who's the best team but who’s healthy, who’s in shape – all those things add up to win a playoff game.”
Griffin will be following in the footsteps of his father Adrian, who played nine seasons in the NBA and now serves as an assistant coach of the Toronto Raptors.
While Adrian went undrafted in 1996, AJ is a projected lottery pick. He's one of five Duke products, along with Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams, Wendell Moore and Trevor Keels, who should hear their name called at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
"I've been dreaming about walking across that stage pretty much my whole life," Griffin said.
Gearing up for the big day, Griffin was personally styled from head to toe by Neiman Marcus with a curated assortment of leading designers.
Griffin enjoys the fashion aspect of basketball, being able to leave his “mark and personality” through his look.
"Look good, feel good, play good," he said.
The 2022 NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 23, at 7 p.m. CT.