Duke basketball: Freshmen should not do what AJ Griffin is doing

Duke basketball forward AJ Griffin (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward AJ Griffin (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball program is so lucky to have the weaponry of AJ Griffin.

Duke basketball small forward AJ Griffin currently leads all power-conference players with his 49.1 shooting percentage beyond the arc. Remember, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound New York native is only a freshman. Also, note that he and freshman shooting guard Trevor Keels are the youngest players on the 2021-22 Blue Devil roster; they don’t turn 19 until late August.

Sitting at 56-for-114 from 3-point land, if the season ended today, Griffin would be the first Duke Blue Devil in history to attempt more than 100 shots from downtown while knocking down better than 46 percent. Jeff Capel’s 46.0 percent in 1994-95 leads all others (Christian Laettner shot an insane 55.7 percent in 1991-92 but finished with only 97 attempts).

Again, that’s an all-time Blue Devil list — not just freshmen — and the chiseled sharpshooter sits 3.1 percentage points above the mark among those with triple-digit attempts.

To the same point, as “The Brotherhood” Twitter account pointed out, Griffin boasts the fourth-highest 3-point percentage among power-conference freshmen the past 30 years (minimum 100 attempts).

Now, Griffin’s stroke from deep isn’t limited to wide-open looks or the 19-inch gap between the college and NBA 3-point lines. No, his 3-ball is versatile, with just the right amount of arc to create cannonball splashes. He appears to trust it from pretty much anywhere, evident in his steadily increasing number of attempts per game (6-for-10 last time out in Saturday’s win at Syracuse).

Yes, in the 3-point department, not to mention several others, the projected 2022 lottery pick is well beyond his years — and then some.

Duke basketball’s best player in February?

Across Duke basketball’s seven-game road win streak, AJ Griffin has averaged 16.7 points per game while shooting 24-for-42 (57.1 percent) from long range.

In February, which saw the Blue Devils go 7-1 overall and climb to No. 4 in the AP Top 25 Poll, Griffin’s 13.9 points per game trailed only sophomore Mark Williams’ 14.1 and fellow freshman Paolo Banchero’s 14.0 for Duke’s highest scoring average for the month.

Griffin also averaged 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 28.9 minutes per game; consider that he played only 10.1 minutes per game back in November.

Down the stretch, it appears Griffin is giving Banchero a run for his money as the squad’s top rookie sensation. Now that March has arrived, there’s no doubt the Blue Devils are better off as a result.

AJ Griffin and the Duke Blue Devils (25-4, 15-3) look to lock up at least a share of the conference’s regular-season crown in a road game against the Pitt Panthers (11-18, 6-12 ACC) at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday. It will be the last road game of head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career.

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