Jalen Johnson made a splash in the college basketball community on Monday when the freshman Duke announced he would be leaving the team, focusing on his health and preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft. Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski and his players have expressed support for Johnson, but the reviews went as far as label him a let go.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim appears to be leaning more towards the latter group. During his weekly radio show, the 76-year-old said Johnson is “hurting” Duke and the team is “much better now without him”.
“He was just doing some things and preventing others from playing that are good,” Boeheim said. “They’ve had two monster wins since he retired and they play good basketball. They’ve got really good talent. You knew they were going to play out of this stuff and now they’re playing good.”
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas heard what Boeheim (and others) had to say and felt the need to call what he felt were “inappropriate” comments with not-so-subtle nuances.
“The idea that somehow [Duke is] better without Jalen Johnson, I think, is blatantly wrong, “Bilas said on Friday’s” Bald Men on Campus. “But the other thing that bothers me, and it’s not just Jim Boeheim. . . The idea, in a way, that his family is seen as a “camp”, there are nuances to that, which are really disturbing. You know, [Iowa star] Luka Garza, we have all these background stories about Luka Garza and his parents, his dad who trains him and is hyper-involved. Jalen Johnson has two parents and he consulted with his parents to make this decision. And his parents dealt with Duke, just like him.
“Somehow, the idea that if he really cared about his health he would stay at Duke Medical Center, like it was just one thing and there was no had no doctors where he lives. If he backs off his project status, he’s supposed to stay isolated for his looks – I’m not buying any of that. “
Jalen Johnson does not have a “camp”, “people in his ear” or “group”. He has a family. He has a mother and father who help him, with his best interests in mind, make decisions. We may differ with the ruling, but the nuances of Johnson’s criticism are concerning. pic.twitter.com/icKqC9u0Cp
– Jay Bilas (JayBilas) February 19, 2021
Bilas noted that Boeheim had such a harsh reaction when former Georgetown guard James Akinjo left the program in 2019 (he eventually landed in Arizona.) Boeheim tore Akinjo apart because he “would not pass the ball to anyone,” a claim that was not supported by the fact that Akinjo averaged 5.1 assists over 40 games for the Hoyas. Boeheim’s assessment of Duke’s “monster wins” is also questionable, as those wins came against NC State and Wake Forest, two of the worst teams in the ACC.
In Bilas’ mind, there is a fair way to have a conversation about transferring or removing players – what Boeheim did was something else.
“There are legitimate things we can talk about,” Bilas said. “The idea, was that the best thing for his draft status? He’s going to have to answer those questions in the NBA. Maybe sticking out and playing would be better for him. I don’t know the answer to that. We can discuss this.
“But attacking the player, I thought, was inappropriate on Jim Boeheim’s part, and it was inappropriate on the part of other commentators who have said similar things. There are nuances that I don’t like at all. , and I think it should be called. “
In 13 games with Duke, Johnson has averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. He’s widely seen as a potential lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
“I appreciate everything I’ve spent at Duke,” Johnson said as part of Monday’s announcement. “Coach K, my teammates and the program have been very supportive throughout this season, especially during the rehabilitation of my foot injury. My family, the coach and I have made the decision not to not play the rest of this season so I can be 100% healthy in preparation for the NBA Draft.
“It hasn’t been easy but we think it’s better for my future. I have nothing but love for the Brotherhood and I 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. “