Jim Boeheim on Jalen Johnson's Duke Opt-Out: 'That Guy Was Hurting Them'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2021

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, left, shakes hands with Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim before an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim did not mince words when discussing Jalen Johnson's decision to opt out of the remainder of the season for the Duke Blue Devils. 

"That guy was hurting them so they actually are much better now without him," Boeheim said, per Mike Curtis of Syracuse.com. "He was just doing some things and keeping other people from playing that are good. They've had two monster wins since he's opted out."  

Despite Boeheim's comment, Duke has played just once since Johnson opted out. The Blue Devils defeated Wake Forest on Wednesday without the freshman, which doesn't exactly qualify as a "monster" win.

Johnson arrived at Duke as a 5-star prospect and the No. 13 overall player in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

However, he dealt with a foot injury earlier in the season. This college basketball season is also taking place in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Johnson is a highly regarded draft prospect who isn't exactly playing for a legitimate championship contender in Duke.

Jeff Goodman of Stadium reported there were "off-court issues between Jalen Johnson/his camp and Duke dating back to early on in the season."

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He also didn't play much before opting out, appearing in a combined 23 minutes in his two final games against Notre Dame and North Carolina State. In all, Johnson averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range.

That type of shooting and versatility should play well in the NBA, even if his time at Duke didn't work out as hoped.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected Johnson to go No. 6 overall in a recent mock draft.

As for the Blue Devils, they are likely on the outside looking in at the current NCAA tournament picture and would need a strong finish to have a chance. They play Virginia on Saturday before a showdown with Boeheim's squad on Monday.