Jim Boeheim lays into Duke’s Jalen Johnson over opt-out


Duke's Jalen Johnson (1) looks for space as N.C. State's Jericole Hellems (4) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

Jalen Johnson is out at Duke. His exit didn’t win him many fans. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

Jim Boeheim has never been shy about sharing his opinion about players both inside and outside his program, and that includes players on the way out.

The Syracuse coach addressed the recent opt-out of Duke freshman Jalen Johnson on Thursday. He did not seem to think highly of the move, nor the player:

Brutal? Yes. Necessary? Nope.

Johnson’s opt-out triggered a predictable response from many in the college basketball community, with reactions along the lines of “quitter” and “good riddance.” What wasn’t predictable was a Hall of Fame coach also weighing in, rather than simply decline to comment on another program’s 19-year-old player.

Boeheim also isn’t entirely accurate, as Duke has only had one monster win since Johnson’s opt-out, beating Wake Forest 84-60 on Wednesday. It may be true that the Blue Devils have performed better in games without Johnson, but Boeheim goes out of his way to call Johnson the problem.

Johnson’s opt-out was announced Monday, after 13 games in which he averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists. In the release, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski alludes to medical factors playing a role in Johnson’s decision, something Boeheim did not appear to address.

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

NBA teams will certainly have questions about Johnson’s exit, plus his performance on the court. Yahoo Sports’ Krysten Peek currently has Johnson going seventh overall in the 2021 NBA draft, though we’ll see if his opt-out changes his outlook.

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