Duke freshman Jalen Johnson opts out for remainder of season, declares for NBA Draft | Zagsblog
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Monday / November 29.
  • Duke freshman Jalen Johnson opts out for remainder of season, declares for NBA Draft

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    By JACOB POLACHECK and ADAM ZAGORIA

    Duke freshman forward and projected lottery pick Jalen Johnson has opted out for the remainder of the 2020-21 season and declared for the NBA Draft.

    The news was first reported Monday evening by ZAGSBLOG and Duke later confirmed it with an official statement.

    “I appreciate everything about my time at Duke,” said Johnson. “Coach K, my teammates and the program have been nothing but supportive throughout this season, especially during the rehab of my foot injury. My family, Coach and I have made the decision that I should not play the remainder of this season so I can be 100 percent healthy in preparation for the NBA Draft. This was not easy but we feel it’s best for my future. I have nothing but love for the Brotherhood and thank my teammates and everyone associated with the program. Duke will always have a special place in my heart and will always be a part of me.”

    “While we are encouraged by what we are seeing medically, for Jalen’s future, we believe this decision is in his best interest,” said head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “We are ultimately careful with every one of our players and will continue to support Jalen as he progresses toward his goal of playing professional basketball. He deserves to be fully healthy for the upcoming NBA Draft.”

    Johnson, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound small forward out of Nicolet (WI) High School, is averaging 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game in 21.4 minutes per game.

    Duke is 8-8, 6-4 in the ACC and on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

    Johnson is rated as the No. 6 best prospect in ESPN’s 2021 NBA Draft best available players list.

    “It’s a drastic step to pull the plug on a season as you’re headed toward the end of it,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas said on air after ZAGSBLOG first reported the news. “There’s still a lot of games to be played plus the ACC Tournament.”

    He added: “For your NBA stock, that’s going to raise a lot of questions from NBA teams that Jalen Johnson and his family are going to have to answer.”

    Said ESPN’s LaPhonso Ellis: “It’s a sad message because all of you become like brothers because of the shared experiences that you have of getting ready for the season, the wins, the losses, the camaraderie. Then all of a sudden you pull the plug and now it brings into question the very essence of The Brotherhood, especially at this time of the season. So I’m really disappointed. I understand where he’s coming from, but disappointed at the same time.

    “He wasn’t really a good fit for this Duke team and that’s where you saw the inconsistency of Jalen Johnson. I just never thought they were able to use him to fullest of his ability”

    After a 19-point, 19-rebound performance in his season-debut against Coppin State on Nov. 28, Johnson has seen his minutes decrease throughout this season.

    Johnson has been absent from the starting lineup the last three games. He played only eight minutes and scored three points in Duke’s win over NC State on Saturday.

    Johnson missed three games due to a foot injury sustained in Duke’s Dec. 8 loss to Illinois.

    A source said, “He cleaned out his locker this morning.”

    This story has been updated.

    Photo: Duke Athletics

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