Duke basketball commit provides blockbuster preview to Blue Devils

Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Based on what Jalen Johnson did on Wednesday, combined with what he’s done all season at Nike EYBL events, Duke basketball fans are soon in for an old-school treat.

Duke basketball legend Grant Hill would have risen a few inches higher.

Other than that, though, what Jalen Johnson dropped jaws with on the opening day of Peach Jam gave a glimpse of what another “Wish Granted” season in Durham might look like.

In short, the 6-foot-8, 215-pound small forward provided the crowd in North Augusta, S.C., with what may remain the best dunk of the entire four-day event:


The longer version, though, entails the Blue Devils’ latest 2020 commit — joining point guard Jeremy Roach last week to give Duke an envied early haul of two five-stars — doing far more than just putting a peer on a poster.

Johnson, who ranks No. 4 on the 247Sports Composite and hails from Milwaukee (Nicolet High School), has teamed up with 2021 Duke basketball target Patrick Baldwin Jr. in leading Phenom University (Wisc.) to an 11-2 record — now 1-0 at Peach Jam — across Nike EYBL play this year.

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With his 21 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in the 81-77 win over Team Final (Pa.) on Wednesday, Johnson is tops on his squad in rebounds (9.2 per game) and ranks second in both points (17.3 per game) and assists (5.9 per game).

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Look like Hill numbers at Duke?

Check this out: During the 1993-94 season, as a senior who ultimately fueled a group of Blue Devils with a relatively limited amount of talent to within five points of what would have been his third national championship, Hill averaged 17.4 points, 6.9 boards, and 5.2 dimes.

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Eerier yet, Hill’s combined average of steals and blocks across his final season in Durham (2.7) exactly matches Johnson’s same cumulative amount through his 13 Nike EYBL games this year.

No doubt Hill is the perfect comparison for Johnson.

In fact, Johnson should probably take one pointer in particular from the man who lands on most anyone’s all-time Duke starting five: limit 3-point tries until figuring out how to make a few more of them (Johnson is 7-for-37, which is only 19 percent, from deep this year; Hill only attempted 17 from beyond the arc across his first three seasons as a Blue Devil before unleashing an impressive 39-for-100 clip as a senior).

It looks like the only remaining question is whether Johnson grants the same number of wishes for Duke basketball fans as Hill did during his stay in Durham.

Unfortunately, that wish won’t come true if Johnson’s stay is as brief as his beyond-his-years talent suggests it should be.

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Phenom University’s next game is at 9 a.m. Thursday against 1-0 The Family Detroit (Mich.).

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