The freshman forward arrived in Durham as a highly touted five-star prospect and a part of a star-studded Mike Krzyzewski recruiting class. He averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game on 52.3 percent shooting in 13 contests for the Blue Devils.
Johnson’s relationship with Duke seemed to be on edge prior to the official announcement on Monday. Stadium’s Jeff Goodman went as far as to day that there were “off-court issues” between the two parties, which likely contributed to his departure from the program.
Krzyzewski benched Johnson in the Blue Devils’ Tuesday loss to Notre Dame and he didn’t play a single minute of the second half in Duke’s victory over NC State last weekend.
The news of the departure set the college basketball world aflame, as Johnson’s decision becomes just the latest debacle involving the perennial powerhouse this season. Media members and fans appeared split in their support of his choice to leave, but largely considered it to be a questionable move.
I don’t really understand Jalen Johnson’s decision. Only three weeks left in the season…Duke still could make the Tournament
I can’t imagine this will in any way help his NBA stock and it could slightly hurt it…especially considering NBA respect for K
Really odd to me
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) February 15, 2021
Jalen Johnson played for there high schools in three years. He bolted from IMG Academy and took himself out of consideration for the McDonald's game. So this is nothing new. Will be interesting to see how much of a concern that history is for NBA teams.
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 16, 2021
"Opting Out" with three weeks left in the regular season isn't opting out.
It's quitting. https://t.co/XFU2E1avNR
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 15, 2021
I’ve had Jalen Johnson outside of the top-10 the whole season. I get the size/skill/vision talent. But tough to make his skillset work in NBA without a jumper, and the jumper is a ways away. Also, departure from IMG raised questions in NBA front offices even before this season https://t.co/tgtIUx7IeW
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) February 15, 2021
Projected lottery pick. Played just 23 minutes in the last two games combined, has started just eight games all season. Battled a foot injury earlier in the season. Had issues as a HS senior, too: left IMG Academy without playing a game, played only nine games as a senior. https://t.co/UlM9VMRKVv
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 16, 2021
Johnson’s move particularly stands out because of his departure from IMG Academy in high school. Many believe that the combination of the two conflicts could be a red flag for NBA front offices interested in the young forward in the draft.
However, loyal Duke fans and those wishing to defend the freshman wished him the best. With quite a bit of money on the line in the upcoming NBA Draft, some college basketball fans respected Johnson’s choice to protect his health.
Want to wish Jalen Johnson nothing but the absolute best. Some things in life just don’t pan out in the ideal way, shit happens. Has a bright future ahead of him in the NBA. Hope he kills it.
— The Brotherhood (@BrotherhoodCBB) February 15, 2021
college football players that are draft prospects “opt out” of bowl games all the time. It doesn’t look like Duke is going to make the tournament so why is it an issue that Jalen Johnson is looking towards his future? https://t.co/hQrpqPmOc7
— Jagan Mosely (@J_Mosely) February 15, 2021
yeah no. ncaa players should be using the schools they attend as much as the schools they attend use them. one of the best cbb programs in the country will survive without him, but his career might not if he gets injured https://t.co/tc9vEGzGhE
— haley o'shaughnessy (@HaleyOSomething) February 16, 2021
Overall, the Johnson experiment at Duke will be considered a failed one. After coming into Durham with high expectations, he’ll leave under questionable circumstances.
Duke will need to somewhat replace Johnson’s production down the stretch. Krzyzewski’s hopes at an NCAA Tournament berth seem to be moving further out of reach by the second and only took a bigger hit on Monday.