Prized Duke basketball signee ‘locked in’ on next season

Duke basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Being the highest-ranked Duke basketball recruit in any given class creates expectations galore, but the program’s most heralded rookie for next season now has a little extra time to fixate on the challenge ahead.

Barring a surprise in regards to expected early departures from the 2019-20 Duke basketball stars — who saw their season come to an abrupt end on Thursday due to coronavirus-related cancellations of the ACC and NCAA Tournament — Nicolet (Wis.) small forward Jalen Johnson looks to be the signature piece in Durham next season.

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And judging from his Twitter account, the 6-foot-8, 215-pound five-star, who inked his letter of intent in the early signing period, now has his eyes squarely set on the opportunity.

Late Thursday night, in response to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association nixing the remainder of all its ongoing postseason play, Johnson tweeted that “this hurts…it’s been real Knight Nation…onto the next chapter…@DukeMBB” and followed that up with this:

Though Johnson fell from No. 3 on the 247Sports 2020 Composite a year ago to his current No. 11 position, the fact he sat out most of his senior campaign surely had more to do with the drop than anything he did on the court.

That said, the reasons for his no-shows from November through January remain unclear; after transferring in the fall from Nicolet, he never suited up for IMG Academy (Fla.), was out of school altogether for a spell, enrolled back at his old stomping grounds, and then waited for a waiver to play the remainder of the season.

Across the eight games that Johnson did ultimately play for Nicolet, per MaxPreps, he averaged an impressive 25.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.6 blocks while shooting 60.1 percent from the field. Check out the highlights from his recent triple-double in the state playoffs:

On the flipside, like so many elite Duke freshmen in recent years, the Milwaukee native may want to refine the stroke he displayed this year both from beyond the arc (4-for-24, 16.7 percent) and from the charity stripe (28-for-52, 53.8 percent).

Percentages aside, Johnson, who seems on track to stay in college only one season, possesses the necessary versatile toolbox to lead from Day One as a Blue Devil. Just consider that he continues to draw frequent comparisons, both here at Ball Durham and elsewhere, to Duke basketball legends Grant Hill and Shane Battier.

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The other five 2020 Duke basketball signees are Whitney Young (Ill.) five-star combo guard D.J. Steward, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) five-star point guard Jeremy Roach, IMG four-star center Mark Williams, Trinity Episcopal (Va.) four-star power forward Henry Coleman, and Huntington Prep (W.Va.) four-star power forward Jaemyn Brakefield.

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For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.

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