BY AARON BEARD, AP Basketball writer
The highly acclaimed Duke newcomer Jalen Johnson foregoes the remainder of the Blue Devils season and declares himself in favor of the NBA draft.
The school announced Johnson’s decision on Monday night. The move was first reported by ZagsBlog.com.
The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward averaged 11.2 points and 6.1 rebounds, despite missing three games and significant training time with a foot injury in December in an unexpectedly bumpy season for the Blue Devils.
In a statement, 19-year-old Johnson, considered by many potential lottery prospects, said the decision was made after consulting family and coach Mike Krzyzewski to ensure he was “100% healthy in preparation for the NBA draft “is.
“It wasn’t easy, but we think it’s the best for my future,” said Johnson. “I have nothing but love for the Brotherhood and I thank my teammates and everyone involved with the program. Duke will always have a special place in my heart and always be a part of me.”
The Blue Devils (8-8, 6-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) ended a three-game loss with a win in the state of North Carolina on Saturday, although they continue to risk missing their first NCAA tournament since 1995. Johnson was three points ahead of eight minutes while coming off the bench for the third year in a row.
Afterward, Krzyzewski said Johnson was “pushed back” by the physicality of the game, but added, “I have faith in him. We will keep working with him and he will have opportunities. “
Johnson was Duke’s top ranked recruit in 13th place, according to 247sports.com, having 19 points with 19 rebounds on his debut against Coppin State. He had tougher losses to Michigan State and Illinois in December before the injury that sidelined him for more than a month.
The highlight on his return was a big game (24 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks) in Pittsburgh. Johnson finished his Duke career with six double-digit performances in 13 games.
Krzyzewski said last week the team was closely watching Johnson’s foot because “it could be a big factor in his career” if not handled well.
“While we are encouraged by what we are seeing medically, for Jalen’s future we believe that this decision is in his best interests,” Krzyzewski said in Monday’s statement. “We are ultimately careful with each of our players and will continue to support Jalen as he gets closer to his goal of playing professional basketball. He deserves to be perfectly sane for the upcoming NBA draft. “
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