Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim offered a sharp critique of Jalen Johnson after the Duke star opted out of the regular season with six games remaining, saying Thursday in his weekly radio show that the Blue Devils are not only better without him, but “much better” without him.
“That guy was hurting them so they actually are much better now without him,” he said via Syracuse.com. “He was just doing some things and keeping other people from playing that are good.”
Boeheim went on to add that Duke has had “two monster wins” since he opted out and that the team is playing “good basketball,” though Duke has only played one game since Johnson’s opt-out and its lone win came against a Wake Forest team that is 6-10 overall and 3-10 in ACC play.
“They’ve got very good talent,” he said. “You knew they were going to play out of this thing and now they’re playing well. Every game we play is a very difficult game, a great challenge and we look forward to it.”
Boeheim offered a similar criticism last year when Georgetown standout James Akinjo entered the transfer portal. Akinjo, then the team’s scoring leader, later transferred to Arizona.
“They got rid of a guy that wouldn’t pass the ball to anybody and just shot it every time, and that’s why they’re good now,” Boeheim said. “Patrick [Ewing] can’t say that but I can. He lost two games for them by himself.”
For as bold and out there as Boeheim’s take on the Johnson situation is, however, it’s not a totally far-out stance. Per data from Evan Miya, who runs a college basketball advanced analytics site, Johnson is the only Duke player this season who has a negative team efficiency margin on the season factoring in impact and efficiency between offense and defense. Still, it’s probably too soon to say whether it’s going to help or hurt Duke in the long run.
The Blue Devils face No. 7 Virginia at home on Saturday in what will be their first real post-Johnson test of the season.