It appears Jalen Johnson's time as a Blue Devil is over.
The star freshman, who came into this season as the No. 13 recruit in the country, is opting out of the rest of the 2020-21 season, per a release from the team Monday evening.
“I appreciate everything about my time at Duke,” Johnson said in the release. “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.”
The news was first reported by ZAGSBLOG's Jacob Polacheck a little more than an hour prior to the official release.
Johnson missed a little over a month with a foot injury announced in mid-December, but returned Jan. 12 against Virginia Tech and has appeared in every game since.
“While we are encouraged by what we are seeing medically, for Jalen’s future, we believe this decision is in his best interest,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said in the release. “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.”
Despite high expectations coming into the season, Johnson disappointed during his short stay in Durham, averaging just 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists across 13 games.
He had moments that showcased why he was at one point a top-five recruit in the country and still could be a lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, including a 24-point, 16-rebound, seven-assist performance at Pittsburgh Jan. 19 as well as his impressive 19-point, 19-rebound debut against Coppin State.
But the Milwaukee native had largely been absent from the Blue Devils' rotation in recent games, totaling just 11 points in 23 minutes across Duke's latest two contests against Notre Dame and N.C. State.
While Johnson and Krzyzewski indicated the opt out was due to the former's foot injury, not everyone seems to be entirely convinced.
Stadium's Jeff Goodman tweeted Monday evening that "there have been off-court issues between Jalen Johnson/his camp and Duke dating back to early on in the season," building on some of his reports from earlier in the season.
“You look at Duke, and they need Jalen Johnson back and they need an engaged Jalen Johnson, not just Jalen Johnson,” Goodman said on ACC Network's Packer and Durham in early January, while Johnson was still recovering from his foot injury. “They need him bought in. And I know there’s that foot injury and everything like that, but there’s some other things going on behind the scenes there, guys, with Jalen Johnson and the coaching staff. So he’s got to come back and be bought in.”
Duke takes on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., Wednesday night.
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