Many people weren’t exactly looking forward to the conclusion of the long holiday weekend. But Jalen Johnson wasn’t one of them.
Johnson worked out for the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday, officially marking the initial test for the 19-year-old Duke product during his pre-draft journey.
“It was intense, non-stop,” Johnson said. “I’m a worker so I enjoyed it. A lot. It was a great first workout for sure.”
The individual session was an all-encompassing one.
“Pretty much everything," Johnson said. "We did stuff in transition. We did ball-handling, shooting. Shooting on the move. Pretty much touching on every aspect of my game. My strengths, things that were weaknesses, but I improved and now showcase pretty well."
Johnson is an intriguing prospect, but his stock has taken a dip on some mock draft boards over the past few months. He arrived on campus in Durham as a heralded five-star recruit and never fully settled in his lone season under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
He appeared in just 13 games for the Blue Devils, missing three games in December and January with a foot injury. He logged only eight minutes in his final outing against N.C. State in February. He elected to opt out of the remainder of his freshman season, drawing sharp backlash from some pundits who believed Johnson bailed on his teammates.
Johnson said Tuesday the decision to was ultimately made in conjunction with his family. The criticism, he said, is fueling him during his training.
"Yeah, you heard all the things they were saying but that just made me work harder," Johnson said. "I’ve tapped into a whole 'nother level when I’m in the gym, constantly pushing through fatigue because I know people want to see me fail now. So that’s why I’m doing it, I’m also doing it because love the game. I don’t listen to the outside noise because at the end of the day I’m going to do what's best for me."
And Johnson insists that's exactly what happened, getting him ready to display his skill set for the likes of Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the league executives who will get an up-close look at him throughout the process leading up to the July 29 draft.
"I honestly don’t think I’d be in the position I’m in today if I didn’t leave early," Johnson said. "I prepared myself. I’m in position ready for this next step. I’m as prepared as I’ve ever been."
At 6-9, Johnson has the height and length some scouts are looking for. He believes he'll be able to be utilized in the backcourt or frontline, adding another potential threat to a team like the Hornets who value their position-less philosophy.
"I’m really a versatile player," Johnson said, "a great two-way player, I believe, just from the fact I can guard one through five, I can play one through five. I think the NBA game is going to be much more easier because it’s more open space and that’s where I thrive at. So I think I should showcase that pretty well."
And he's eager to do it.
"I’m just going to show people who I am," Johnson said. "At the end of the day, I’m not playing this game to prove people wrong. I’m doing it because I love it. At the end of the day the work will show. So I’m just confident that it’s going to show and it’s going to catch a lot of people by surprise."