Jalen Johnson caused a stir in the college basketball community on Monday when the Duke freshman announced he would be leaving the team, focusing on his health and preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft. The Blue Devils coach, Mike Krzyzewski, and his players expressed support for Johnson, but critics have come to label him a quitter.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim seems to lean more toward the latter group. During his weekly radio show, the 76-year-old declared that Johnson was “hurting” Duke and that the team is “much better now without him.”
“He was just doing some things and preventing other people from playing well,” Boeheim said. “They have had two monster victories since he opted out and they are playing good basketball. They have very good talent. You knew they were going to get ahead and now they are playing well.”
MORE: NBA executive weighs in on Johnson’s decision to opt out
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas listened to what Boeheim (and others) had to say and felt the need to say what he felt were “inappropriate” comments with some not-so-subtle nuances.
“The idea that somehow [Duke is] Better without Jalen Johnson, I think, it’s obviously false, “Bilas said on Friday’s” Bald Men on Campus “show.” But the other thing that bothers me, and this isn’t just Jim Boeheim. . . The idea, in some way, that his family is considered a ‘camp’, has overtones that are really disturbing. Know, [Iowa star] Luka Garza, we have all these outstanding stories about Luka Garza and his parents, his father exercising him and being very involved. Jalen Johnson has two parents and consulted with his parents to make this decision. And his parents took care of Duke, as did he.
“In a way, the idea that if you really cared about your health, you would stay at Duke Medical Center, like this is just one thing and they don’t have doctors where you live. If you are opting out of receiving your draft status , he’s supposed to be isolated by appearance, I don’t believe any of that. “
Jalen Johnson does not have a “camp”, “people in his ear” or a “group”. He has a family. He has a mother and father who help him, thinking of his best interests, in making decisions. We may differ on the decision, but the nuances of Johnson’s criticism are troubling. pic.twitter.com/icKqC9u0Cp
– Jay Bilas (JayBilas) February 19, 2021
Bilas noted that Boeheim had an equally harsh response when former Georgetown guard James Akinjo left the show in 2019 (eventually landing in Arizona). Boeheim broke Akinjo because he “I would not pass the ball to anyone”, a claim that wasn’t supported by the fact that Akinjo averaged 5.1 assists in 40 games with the Hoyas. Boeheim’s assessment of Duke’s “monster victories” is also questionable, as those victories came against NC State and Wake Forest, two of the worst teams in the ACC.
In Bilas’s mind, there is a fair way to have a conversation about transferring players or opting out; what Boeheim did was something else.
“There are legitimate things we can talk about,” Bilas said. “The idea, was this the best for his draft status? He will have to answer these questions to the NBA. Maybe sticking up and playing would be better for him. I don’t know the answer to that. We can discuss that.
“But attacking the player, I thought, was inappropriate from Jim Boeheim, and has been inappropriate from other commentators who have said similar things. It has some nuances that I don’t like at all, and I think they should be pointed out.
In 13 games with Duke, Johnson averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. He is widely viewed as a possible lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
“I appreciate everything about my time at Duke”, Johnson said as part of Monday’s announcement. “Coach K, my teammates and the program have been nothing more than supportive throughout this season, especially during the rehabilitation of my foot injury. My family, the coach and I have made the decision that I should not play the rest of this season so that he can be 100 percent healthy in preparation for the NBA Draft.
“This was not easy, but we feel that it is the best thing for my future. I have nothing but love for the Brotherhood and I thank my teammates and everyone associated with the program. Duke will always have a special place in my heart and it will always be a part of me. “
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.