Illinois sophomore guard Alan Griffin had ups and downs in his first campaign like many collegiate freshmen can have from game to game.
Coming to Illinois from Archbishop Stepinac High School in Ossining, New York, the 6-foot-5 wing was known as a shooter but revealed much more to his game.
In high school, Alan averaged 19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.8 blocks per game as a senior while shooting 48 percent from 3-point range. He helped lead Stepinac to a 27-5 overall record and its first league title since 1984, first city title since 1960, and the school’s first-ever state federation championship.
But last season, the Illini were a major adjustment for Alan; he played in 30 games in the season with one start, averaging 2.8 points and 1.6 rebounds.
What most fans may not realize is that Alan is the son of former NBA player Adrian Griffin, who played for the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls and the Seattle SuperSonics and attended Seton Hall University.
Adrian sees the game through different eyes than most parents and fans because he has been where his son is; he likes what the Illinois coaching staff is teaching his son and the direction the program is headed.
“The first thing is I like how he holds players accountable, he does it in a good way,” Adrian said. "I can see the growth in Alan from last year to this year. Brad has done that mentally and physically which is very important at this level of basketball. Sometimes it takes a special coach to bring out the best in a player. I tell all the parents I work with: the best thing you can do is be coachable."
Today at this level it is not like it used to be: coaches are not sticking around as long they used to. Part of it is winning and the other part is some look for better jobs. Underwood has made it clear on several occasions that Illinois is a dream job for him.
“I think one thing players and parents have to understand: the players and coaches all have one thing in common,” Adrian said. "The players want to get better and the coaches want them to get better. Sometimes it takes a little pushing and pulling to get it accomplished."
Times became difficult last season for Alan to sit and watch like all players who were the “man” on their high school team. Adrian did not let his son run like many athletes today because when an athlete picks a school, he has to buy into a system and let his play speak for itself.
Recently the Fighting Illini went to Italy for exhibition games. Griffin, along with several others, stepped up their game. Alan averaged 16.75 points on the trip, scoring 31 points in one game against the Gazzada All-Stars. He was 12-for-15 from the field, 5-of-5 from 3 and grabbed eight rebounds in a 112-63 victory.
Adrian did not make the trip but definitely followed the team and his son’s progress closely.
Basketball has taken Adrian several stops, but last June Adrian garnished the ultimate success: he is the lead assistant for the Toronto Raptors, and they are now the NBA champions. Taking advice and learning from Adrian is good for Alan, and he does listen, according to Adrian.
“We talk often,” Adrian said. "Playing in the NBA is a goal of his. The best thing he can do or any player can do is become very responsible, diligent about responsibilities, he must continue to get better, do what the coaches at Illinois ask him to do. Because I’ve been around the game for so long, there are certain things I can point out to him, to help him with. He’s a good kid, and I really think he’s in the right spot here at Illinois."
It appears that this summer, the game has slowed down for Alan. Adrian had Alan and his sisters and brothers around the game since they could walk. They spent a lot of time in the gym.
Being 6-foot-5, Alan is a super rebounder, but it comes naturally.
“I think it’s a skill, it’s something I had to have because I had slow feet," Adrian said. "When you have slow feet, you have to anticipate where the next action is coming. Alan is a much better athlete than I was. I tell all my kids just because dad made it doesn’t guarantee you anything and that you will automatically make it at the next level. However, you do have to put in the time and work, just to give yourself a chance."
Illinois is a long way from New York, but if Adrian and his family did not believe in Illinois and the coaches, he would not be there; they push and want the best not only for his son but all the players.