The UNC basketball program has had its fair share of struggles over the past year, but they pale in comparison to the current dumpster fire taking place in Durham.
Duke freshman forward Jalen Johnson announced on Monday night that he’d be opting out of the remainder of the 2020-21 season, and will begin preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft.
The projected lottery pick reportedly cleared out his locker, and left campus some time Monday morning. Johnson’s inexplicable decision to suddenly quit on his team mid-season was first reported by Zagsblog’s Adam Zagoria and Jacob Polacheck, and later confirmed by the Duke basketball program via Twitter.
Johnson’s ill-timed decision follows a difficult stretch of games in which the Blue Devils lost six of their last nine. He played just eight minutes in his final game with the program — a 16-point victory over NC State on Saturday — recording three points on three free throws off the Duke bench. It was the third consecutive game that Johnson had been absent the Duke starting lineup dating back to the team’s 91-87 loss against North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Johnson missed three games earlier in the season due to a supposed foot injury that garnered scrutiny from Stadium’s Jeff Goodman and Blue Devil fans alike. It sure feels like a far cry from the 19-point, nine-rebound performance that he began his college career with in an opening-season win over Coppin State less than three months ago. Johnson averaged 11.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 13 collegiate games.
On a side note, former UNC point guard Cole Anthony tore his meniscus in his only season with the Tar Heels which forced him to have it surgically repaired and miss 11 games. He still returned to the UNC lineup after recovering from his injury, despite the Tar Heels being in the midst of their worst season in two decades.
Trouble brewing for Blue Devils on the recruiting trail?
Patrick Baldwin, a 6-foot-9, 190-pound small forward from the class of 2021, is the No. 4 prospect in the nation, and one that was long-considered a heavy Duke lean. On the same day that Jalen Johnson decided to leave the struggling 8-8 Blue Devils, Baldwin’s 247Sports Crystal Ball picked up a new prediction.
The latest entry in his Crystal Ball is from Duke insider John Watson of The Devils Den, and it’s in favor of Milwaukee-Wisconsin, where Baldwin’s father is the head coach. Now, that in no way means that it’s a done deal for the Panthers, but it’s definitely a bad sign for the downward-spiraling Blue Devils.
It is worth noting, however, that Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils already have commitments from a pair of 5-star prospects in the 2021 class, and a couple of others on their radar.
Check back with Keeping It Heel for all the latest on the UNC basketball program, and their cross-town arch rivals, the Duke Blue Devils.