Johnson to leave Duke early, prep for NBA draft

  • Basketball recruiting insider.
  • Joined ESPN in 2014.
  • Graduate of University of Delaware.

Duke freshman and projected lottery pick Jalen Johnson is opting out of the rest of the season and will declare for the NBA draft, according to the school.

Johnson, the No. 13 prospect in the ESPN 100 last season, has had an up-and-down season with the Blue Devils. He opened his career with 19 points, 19 rebounds and 5 assists against Coppin State but suffered a foot injury a couple of weeks later and missed three games. After returning to the starting lineup, Johnson has come off the bench for the past three games. He played a combined 23 minutes the past two games, scoring just three points in eight minutes against NC State this past weekend.

“I appreciate everything about my time at Duke,” Johnson said in a Duke news release Monday night. “Coach (Mike Krzyzewski), 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.”

In 13 games, Johnson averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

“This was not easy but we feel it’s best for my future,” Johnson said. “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.”

Johnson hasn’t played a complete season since his junior year of high school. As a senior, he left IMG Academy without playing a game before suiting up for nine games at Nicolet High School (Wisconsin).

“While we are encouraged by what we are seeing medically, for Jalen’s future, we believe this decision is in his best interest,” 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.”

ESPN has Johnson ranked No. 6 in its NBA draft rankings, the No. 1 small forward in the class.

Myron Medcalf contributed to this report.

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