The 2020-21 college basketball season has been bizarre in many ways, but one ongoing theme is the struggles of various “blue blood” programs. Along with Kentucky, Michigan State and others, the Duke Blue Devils have been a mess all season long, posting an 8-8 record, and Mike Krzyzewski’s team will now be without its most talented player for the rest of the season. Multiple sources indicate freshman Jalen Johnson, a 6’9 forward projected to be a lottery pick in the 2021 draft, is opting out of the remainder of the campaign.
From there, Jeff Goodman of Stadium reports that “off-court issues” were occurring between Johnson’s side and Duke dating back for a while.
Source: There have been off-court issues between Jalen Johnson/his camp and Duke dating back to early on in the season. https://t.co/oJVlJ4u5oQ
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) February 15, 2021
Johnson missed a handful of games in late December and early January before returning to the lineup on Jan. 12. Still, he was not able to replicate his early-season production, and Johnson averaged just 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 13 appearances.
From a future-facing standpoint, it is hard to envision this decision will impact Johnson’s draft stock in a negative way. He is an intriguing and explosive athlete, combining quality size with an interesting skill set that should translate to the NBA level. While he connected on 44.4 percent of his three-point attempts, perimeter shooting is a concern, both due to low volume (18 attempts in 13 games) and previous struggles in pre-college environments. Johnson is a strong passer and rebounder for his size, though, which helps to endear him to professional scouts.
Duke isn’t likely to make the NCAA Tournament, seemingly needing to win the ACC Tournament in order to earn a trip to the Big Dance. As such, Johnson won’t miss that much of his freshman season but, at the same time, no one predicted only a 13-game sample from his college career, and Duke’s struggles may have held him back in terms of the ability to display his full arsenal while in Durham.