With Strickland watching from the side, Griffin drifted back to the three-point arc during the solo shooting session. The then-junior guard swished through one deep shot and then another, quickly settling into an easy rhythm. When Griffin finally missed after knocking down 10 straight treys, Strickland sent a text message to GW Coach Mike Lonergan. The Colonials were ready to offer.
Rarely the most athletic player on the floor, Griffin made zero three-pointers during his freshman season at the Derwood public school and only emerged as a Division I prospect after overhauling his jump shot through countless hours of repetition. Now signed to play for Lonergan at George Washington, the 6-foot-2 guard might be the area’s top high school three-point marksman.
“I knew that if I wanted to reach my goals I was going to have to do something to separate me from other guys,” said Griffin, who is the program’s all-time leading scorer at 1,195 points with 180 three-pointers entering Friday’s game at Quince Orchard. “Shooting became, I guess, my niche. I just kept working day in and day out, so I was always getting better.”
Griffin entered high school with what he now calls “a funky little shot.” At the time, it didn’t seem so bad. He had been courted by several area private schools but opted to play at Magruder where he had attended Harwood’s summer camps since fourth grade.
As a freshman, Griffin cracked the varsity lineup and displayed a potent midrange game, but he was a non-factor from the outside. He attempted a three-pointer in his high school debut, clanging the shot off the rim. Though he averaged 4.6 points per game, he never took another three the rest of the year.
After the season ended, Harwood offered to help improve the mechanics of a jump shot that was slightly long and slow, if Griffin agreed to prioritize improvement over playing on the AAU circuit.
Previously, Griffin’s stroke had come across his body making for a slight hitch in his shot, but he worked to craft a more repeatable motion, staying on balance with the ball held high.
Harwood, who has led the Colonels to two state titles, said he’s only coached a handful of players who have successfully overhauled their form at the high school level in a career that began at Seneca Valley in 1986.
“It takes a serious commitment to get that muscle memory going in the right direction,” Harwood said. “That’s where Nick is special.”
Griffin logged long hours at Shady Grove Middle School, a five-minute walk from his house, fine-tuning his stroke on the outdoor courts behind the building or in the gym when a janitor would let him in.