Star freshman says choosing Duke over pro money was easy decision

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- There was never any question. Jalen Johnson wanted the college experience, specifically at Duke.

"Just the opportunity to be able to play for Coach K and get a degree over just going to get $500,000 real quick," Johnson said.

Considered a Top Five recruit nationally before injuries and transfers interrupted his senior season, Johnson is motivated to prove he's still in that stratosphere. He's got skills guys his size don't normally possess.

"I wouldn't necessarily call myself a 'pass first' guy. It's something I love to do though," he said. "Just having those guard skills and guard vision. My versatility has opened up so many opportunities and options on the floor."

At the same time, Johnson still feels he's just starting to realize his potential.

"I'm still kind of in a way getting used to my body and getting used to how tall I really am, and how strong I am, so I think that's going to be definitely an advantage for me," he said.

Duke assistant coach Chris Carrawell said the 6-9, 200-pound Johnson's raw ability is easily evident.

"Just making plays, extremely versatile," Carrawell said. "Really good athlete. I mean, in transition, him getting downhill has been great for us, and he's a great passer."

Being immersed in the Duke machine has fast-forwarded that development, both playing with other great players ...

"They really just bring my game up in all aspects because it pushes me."

... and learning from a master in Mike Krzyzewski.

"Coach breaks the game down in so many ways where you just look at it and you're like 'no way, it was this simple after all.' He just has you really constantly thinking the game."

Johnson was Duke's lone preseason first-team All-ACC selection. He won't be sneaking up on anyone. The proving ground awaits.

"Everybody's talented around you and not having that ego coming in, getting rid of the egos at the door because we all know Coach K doesn't play that," Johnson said. "My biggest dream is being able to put on a Duke basketball jersey."