Next Duke basketball star feels growth spurt coming on

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

An incoming Duke basketball freshman may soon sprout into another position.

If next season’s Duke basketball roster came out today, then it would likely show only two players taller than 6-foot-9. With that in mind, Mike Krzyzewski and his gang surely wouldn’t complain if Jalen Johnson did indeed outgrow his 6-foot-8, 220-pound frame, particularly in the vertical direction.

At No. 11 on the 247Sports 2020 Composite, the versatile small forward sits the highest among the new arrivals and one spot ahead of where the top returnee, sophomore power forward Matthew Hurt, ranked in 2019.

Factoring that in with Johnson’s Saturday tweet, which appears below and hints of a late growth spurt, one could conclude that the 18-year-old should be the squad’s premier piece and also challenge Hurt at the four-spot while serving as an able-bodied fill-in at the five.

Even without the added height, Johnson’s past mixtapes reveal a refined baller with strong post moves who fits the mold of Shane Battier, a former Duke legend at the four whose No. 31 hangs inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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That said, Johnson also exhibits elite handles on the perimeter, a springy hop to his step, and the ability to create his own shot from any spot — not to mention the uncanny zip, accuracy, and creativity of his passes. The Wisconsin native’s glaring weakness, though, is his stroke from beyond the arc.

Speaking of 3-point shooting, that’s Hurt’s signature. Yet despite a 39.3 percent clip from downtown last season, the 6-foot-9, 215-pound Minnesotan eventually saw a drop in minutes after proving too thin to hold his ground against burly power forwards.

So assuming Johnson’s growth spurt occurs while Hurt fails to bulk up, it’s plausible Duke’s go-to lineup will include both, but maybe only after they trade positions with one another or figure out how to coexist at, say, the 3.5-spot.

The Duke basketball rookies set to join Jalen Johnson in Durham

Coach K welcomes five scholarship recruits in addition to Johnson: five-star point guard Jeremy Roach, five-star combo guard DJ Steward, four-star power forward Henry Coleman, four-star power forward Jaemyn Brakefield, and five-star center Mark Williams.

Another newbie is grad transfer Patrick Tape, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound big man who may have the build Johnson will boast by the time they both land in Durham.

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