As Duke’s season begins, its recruiting efforts for next year are wrapping up. In this series, I will analyze film on each of Duke’s signees for the 2020-21 freshman class. Let’s begin with the top ranked incoming recruit for the Blue Devils, Jalen Johnson:
At 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds with the skills of a point guard, Jalen Johnson fits the mold of a classic five-star one-and-done Blue Devil. A Wisconsin native, Johnson moved to Bradenton, Fla., to spend his senior year at the well-known athletic prep school, IMG Academy. As a junior, the fourth ranked recruit according to ESPN averaged 19.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game.
One of the things that stood out to me throughout Johnson’s tape was his ability to finish through traffic on the fast-break and even in a half-court setting. For someone of Johnson’s stature, it is very easy to finish with dunks and crafty layups against high school teams with 6-foot-4 centers. However, Johnson was still able to get to the rim and finish efficiently in the EYBL, a league for some of the elite D-I players in the high school circuit. Watch how Johnson, a righty, hits a floater with his left hand over the trees in the first clip and finishes off a nice behind-the-back move for a ferocious dunk in the second.
Much has been said about Johnson’s elite court vision at his size—some have even compared him to the likes of Paul Pierce. It is clear that Johnson has a knack for finding open teammates and igniting fast-breaks with accurate full-court passes.
However, on closer look, Johnson may need to improve this part of his skillset when he makes the jump to the much faster-paced college game.
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Here, Johnson rushes a half-court set and throws it right to an opposing player, even though his team has a numbers advantage on the play. A common theme throughout Johnson’s film was his tendency to turn the ball over frequently in the lane. It’ll be easier for faster, more athletic college guards to strip the ball from Johnson if he does not improve his ball security. He averaged 3.8 turnovers a game in his junior year, something troubling considering he’ll spend his senior season at the same school as another former Blue Devil and IMG product, Trevon Duval. Duval had a less-than-stellar freshman year at Duke, in part due to his carelessness with the ball and poor 3-point shooting. From tape alone, Johnson doesn’t have a consistent outside shot yet, but for someone his size, it’s passable for now.
Overall, Johnson has the tools to become a scoring machine for Duke. He’s too quick for uncoordinated forwards and too big for pesky guards. If he can improve his outside shot and cut down on his turnovers, his career at Duke could be reminiscent of previous Blue Devil one-and-dones.