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Tuesday May 24th, 2022 6:48PM

Blue Devils' Griffin becomes 5th Duke player to bolt for NBA

By The Associated Press
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Duke freshman A.J. Griffin is heading to the NBA, becoming the fifth Blue Devils player in the past week to declare early for the draft.

The school announced Griffin's decision Sunday, the last day for players to declare themselves eligible for the NBA draft. Duke said the 6-foot-6, 222-pound wing regarded as a potential lottery draft pick plans to hire an agent.

“It was a dream come true,” Griffin said in a statement. "My experiences have helped prepare me for this moment and I am proud to know I will be a Blue Devil for life.”

Griffin's NBA move follows that of 7-1 sophomore Mark Williams, 6-10 star freshman Paolo Banchero, 6-5 wing Wendell Moore Jr. and 6-5 guard Trevor Keels. Part of one of the nation’s top recruiting classes out of Ossining, New York, Griffin is ranked as ESPN’s No. 8 draft prospect.

He averaged 10.4 points while providing size, outside shooting and defensive potential to the wing for the Blue Devils. That production came despite him missing most of his last two high school seasons because of knee and ankle injuries, as well as a preseason knee injury that slowed his process of getting back in rhythm after extended absences.

His role grew as he became more comfortable in returning to full-time action. He moved into the top lineup by mid January and never left, starting Duke's last 25 games. He had 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting in his first start at Wake Forest, the first of five 20-point outputs as a starter — the highlight being a 27-point star-making turn in a win at rival North Carolina 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 reach now-retired Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski’s record 13th Final Four while winning the program’s first outright Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title since 2006.

“A.J. was one of the best shooters in the nation and his skillset is exactly what NBA teams are looking for,” Krzyzewski said in a statement.

While Duke is losing a lot of top-tier 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 postseason run — as the team's top returning scorer (8.6 points, 27 starts). Duke also has 247sports' No. 1-ranked recruiting class, featuring top overall prospect Dereck Lively II, fellow big man Kyle Filipowski (No. 3) and small forward Dariq Whitehead (No. 5).

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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