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Jalen Duren sets Friday decision date

08/02/2021, 9:45pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

What will Jalen Duren do next? 

It’s been the biggest question in the grassroots scene not just locally but nationally, just about everybody wondering where the phenom from Wilmington (Del.) will spend the 2021-22 season. 

We’re all finally about to find out.

Duren posted on Instagram on Monday evening that he’ll be announcing his decision between three colleges and two professional options on Friday night at the Grail Sports Complex in his hometown. It’ll be the cap on a tremendous six months for the 6-foot-10 forward, who’s risen to become the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2022 rankings with a dominant spring and summer.

As a junior at Montverde Academy, Duren averaged 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game during league play as Montverde won the GEICO High School national championship; he followed that up by averaging 13.7 ppg and 8.7 rpg for a Team Final squad that won the Nike EYBL Peach Jam championship for the first time in program history.

An elite athlete in the frontcourt who’s put down some of the biggest highlight-reel plays around, Duren is a skilled big man who can put the ball on the floor and run the fast break, makes great passes from the post or perimeter, guards ‘1’ through ‘5’ and is even stretching his offensive game out to the 3-point line. When his motor is running at its highest, there’s no equally powerful two-way threat in the country, and just about every big name program was chasing Duren wherever he played.

In the running for Friday’s commitment are three Division I programs — Kentucky, Memphis and Miami (Fl.) — and two professional options, the G League’s Ignite Team or Australia’s National Basketball League.

All five options present something different, and it’s clear Duren doesn’t have a bad pick in the bunch. 

Jalen Duren (above, in May) will pick from three college options and two professional ones on Friday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

— Kentucky has been churning out pros left and right under head coach John Calipari, including eight NBA first-round draft picks from 2018-21 alone; it’s 34 total drafted Wildcats in the last 10 drafts. The Wildcats haven’t won a national title since 2012, but have made four Elite 8s since, and are annually loaded with talent.

— Miami (Fl.) has former Team Final assistant and Archbishop Carroll grad D.J. Irving newly on staff, and that connection has helped keep the Hurricanes in it thus far. Under 10th-year head coach Jim Larranaga, the Hurricanes have made the NCAA Tournament only four times, and have finished under .500 each of the last three seasons.

— Memphis has a staff that features plenty of NBA ties with head coach Penny Hardaway a major selling point, and he brought former Sixers coach Larry Brown onto the staff as well as Cody Toppert, who spent time with the Suns organization; there have been further rumblings that Rasheed Wallace could be joining the team. The Tigers have won 20+ games in all three of Hardaway’s seasons thus far, but have yet to appear in an NCAA Tournament.

— The G League’s Ignite team began last April as an option for players who wanted to go pro right out of high school but weren’t yet eligible for the NBA due to the ‘one-and-done’ rule. This team, which competes in the G League, saw three of its players picked in the first round of the NBA Draft, including No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green and No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Kuminga. 

— The NBL, Australia’s top professional league, has recently gotten involved with several top prospects, finding success in bringing over LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton, among others. It’s unclear how much exactly Duren’s offer would be to play Down Under, but there’s no doubt it’s significant and could be approaching or even into seven figures.

The recent implementation of Name, Image and Likeness rights — also known as NIL — across the NCAA means Duren stands to make good money even if he goes to college off the likes of endorsements and advertisements, a new angle for schools trying to woo top prospects to their ranks instead of turning pro. 

Earlier this week, Duren’s classmate, Dariq Whitehead, picked Duke over an offer from the G League that was reportedly around $500,000, according to Whitehead.

What will also become clear on Friday night is Duren’s timetable to reach the professional ranks.

After spending his freshman and sophomore year at Roman Catholic (Pa.), Duren transferred down to Montverde Academy, and has accomplished just about all that can be accomplished at the high school level short of McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand honors, but Duren has much bigger goals in mind. There have been reports that Duren will also move up into the 2021 class and go to his next destination this fall, but none of that has been confirmed by Duren or his coaches.

We won’t have to wait much longer.

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