Duke Players, Coach K, Discuss Jalen Johnson Opting Out

Blue Devils supportive of former teammate
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Duke freshman Jalen Johnson left the team earlier this week and opted out of the rest of the season to prepare for the NBA Draft.

After winning their first game without Johnson on the roster, the Blue Devis discussed his departure.

“I know he’s getting a lot of crap on social media,” Matthew Hurt said. “But he’s part of us. He’s never going to leave us like that. We’re going to stay in communication with him. He’s a great talent, great player. He did what’s best for him. We’re all proud of him. We all support him. He has a bright future ahead of him. I texted him that night, and we talked a bit. We thanked each other for helping each other out during the year. For sure we’re going to miss him a lot.”

DJ Steward echoed Hurt’s feelings on Johnson.

“He’s my main guy,” he said. “He pretty much recruited me to come here. Now, he made the best decision for himself. He’s getting a lot of backlash for it, but we’re supporting him 100 percent. I know he’s supporting us as well. … It didn’t come out of nowhere, but we’re just handling it pretty well as a team.”

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who released a statement earlier in the week, also spoke on Johnson’s departure.

“Our team loves Jalen,” he said. “He’s a brother to these guys. For Jalen and his family, they were great – we talked. I’m a coach because of players, and these kids should have the choice to do whatever they want. We’re going to give them our guidance and talk to them about it, and then I’m 100 percent behind him. Our guys have followed up with that too. Especially with the pandemic, these guys have really gotten close. They haven’t been able to make friends anywhere else, so they’ve really developed a family atmosphere. We’re all supportive of Jalen and his family.”